Homeless in Arizona

Church, Religion Crimes and Abuse


Candidates’ call for prayer a clear plea for votes


McClellan: Candidates’ call for prayer a clear plea for votes

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 9:14 am

Guest Commentary by Mike McClellan

Let’s be honest here. The newest Gilbert controversy seems just an attempt to win an election.

School board candidate Daryl Colvin appeared before the board recently, asking that group to consider reinstituting a prayer at the beginning of each meeting (it stopped almost 11 years ago, replaced by a moment of silence).

Colvin , according to articles, argued that the current policy is “insulting, ridiculously shallow, and unnecessary,” adding that the moment of silence is “a need to bow to political correctness to a ridiculous degree.”

He also argued that beginning with a prayer would help the board “make better decisions and fewer mistakes.”

Then, as reported in The Arizona Republic, he lambasted the board:

“The school district needs to make a decision whether they are there to help perpetuate successful American traditions, or to place a left-wing activism where they want to undermine those traditions. They voted in favor of leftist activism. I find that particularly disturbing and a good example (of) why we need some changes on that board.”

I guess I have a couple of questions.

How does opening the school board meetings with a prayer “perpetuate successful American traditions?”

The reason I ask that is, as far as I know, a school board meeting without an opening prayer doesn’t harm my religious beliefs at all. I can still pray right then and there (and having gone to some of those meetings, I’ve often prayed , sometimes for them to mercifully end). I can still attend my church, still participate in our church’s activities, still encourage our college son to go to the campus ministry.

If the tradition Mr. Colvin speaks of is our freedom to worship as we please, he knows as well as I do that no one in our country will stop him from practicing his religion. A moment of silence in place of an opening prayer in no way hinders his or my religious practice.

So the question becomes: “Is a public meeting an appropriate place for public prayer?”

I’m not sure. Does a prayer help the kids? Not necessarily. Does the prayer set the tone for the evening? I’ve been to plenty of heated Mesa school board meetings that followed an opening prayer. I believe in prayer, its power and its ability to help us find peace in a crazy world. But in a place of worship or my home or simply in my head. A prayer prior to a school board meeting can become an empty exercise in symbolism. In that case, an opening prayer actually demeans religion.

Just as I’m worried Mr. Colvin is doing. The board has had a moment of silence for 11 years. Now -- possibly conveniently -- candidate Colvin brings the issue up, weeks before the election.

I wonder, I worry, if Mr. Colvin isn’t exploiting religion for his own ends.

I hope I’m wrong.

Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.

Oklahoma church waited two weeks to report rape


Oklahoma church waited two weeks to report rape

Five church workers charged for delay in alerting police

by Justin Juozapavicius - Sept. 20, 2012 10:51 PM

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. - A 17,000-member megachurch deep in Oklahoma's Bible Belt has been rattled by allegations that five employees waited two weeks to report the rape of a 13-year-old girl in a campus stairwell, allegedly by a church worker.

Tulsa police say the girl is among at least three victims of alleged sex crimes by two former employees of Victory Christian Center who face criminal charges. A child crimes investigator said more victims could surface as police continue to investigate.

Police said this week that the worldwide ministry's pastor and co-founder, Sharon Daugherty, whose daily broadcasts are beamed via satellite to more than 200 countries, knew about the allegations, but trusted ministry employees to follow in-house policies on reporting incidents. The church said it did not follow those policies.

Former church employee Chris Denman, 20, was arrested Sept. 5 for allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl in a stairwell before a church service on Aug. 13. He also is charged with molesting a 15-year-old girl sometime between Aug. 13 and Aug. 17. He has pleaded not guilty, court records show.

Another ex-employee, 23-year-old Israel Shalom Castillo was arrested Thursday after turning himself in at the Tulsa jail. He is charged with making a lewd proposal to a child and using a computer to commit a sex crime.

Prosecutors this week also charged five church employees -- including Daugherty's son and daughter-in-law, who are both youth pastors -- for failing to report the alleged assault between Aug. 15 and Aug. 30. John Daugherty, Charica Daugherty, Paul Willemstein, Anna George and Harold "Frank" Sullivan each face one misdemeanor count of failing to report child abuse.

Tulsa attorney Jason Robertson, who is representing the five employees, did not return a phone message seeking comment Thursday. An assistant in his firm said he was out of town.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the church said its employees failed to follow a written policy requiring any allegation of abuse to be reported by employees to the state's Department of Human Services, and internally within one hour to their department head and the director of human resources.

The five employees charged with failure to report abuse have been suspended by the ministry while it decides disciplinary action, the organization said.

Police Detective Cpl. Greg Smith, who works in the child crisis unit, said the ministry has fully cooperated with investigators since the alleged abuse was reported.

"There was a couple weeks where we probably lost some evidence," he said.

Smith said police are pursuing cases involving at least two more victims and another suspect. In one of the cases, police have failed to connect with the accuser. In the other, the victim's parents are not cooperating, Smith said.

Mixing religion and government in Mesa, Arizona.

According to other articles the city of Mesa, Arizona is giving corporate welfare to several religious schools to lure them to Mesa.

This almost certainly violates Article 2, Section 12 of Arizona's Constitution which says:

"No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or to the support of any religious establishment."


Benedictine University dedicates Mesa student services center

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 3:21 pm

By Stacie Spring, Tribune

Benedictine University at Mesa dedicated its student services center Thursday for the campus that will open in downtown Mesa next fall.

“Secular education is not at odds with faith,” said Mayor Scott Smith at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “Since its founding, Mesa has attracted people of all beliefs.” [But giving religions schools free government money is a violation of Article 2 Section 12 of the Arizona Constitution]

Hoping to bring higher education to the downtown Mesa area, Smith said that many of the private, liberal arts schools they talked to started as faith-based institutions. It was a simple fit because the universities would become a part of the community, not just be in it.

“We only met yesterday, but I already feel as if we’re kindred spirits,” said Bill Carroll, the president of Benedictine University about Mayor Smith. The two, he said, share common values.

Benedictine was the first Catholic university to announce it will open a campus in Arizona.

The recruitment office, located at 51 E. Main St., which has remained vacant for about five years and is owned by the city, was once a travel agency and a restaurant. It is the first of the incoming Mesa universities to open a physical location in the city.

The office, which will be used to promote the school, will employ about 10 workers, said Charlie Gregory, Benedictine University executive vice president.

“There’s already an atmosphere of the faith community working with and in Mesa,” said Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. “Benedictine will serve to strengthen that relationship, yield good fruits and be a great thing for young people here in Arizona.”

“Now the real work begins,” Smith said. “The real excitement will be when we welcome the first class next year.”

The university expects to welcome around 100 junior and senior transfers when it opens the Mesa campus next year, Gregory said. In the fall 2014, the school will admit its first incoming freshman class.

When the campus opens next year, the university will have about 30 faculty and staff.

The university will offer scholarships to Catholic high school graduates and to practicing Catholics in Arizona, Carroll announced. Additionally, Mesa Chamber of Commerce members and their children will receive a 25 percent discount on tuition.

“We’re not here because we have to have it to survive, we’re here because it matches our current community,” Gregory said.

“It’s really phase one of a really big project,” said Dan Withers, the founder and owner of D.L. Withers Construction, the construction company contracted to remodel the buildings. “In one of the buildings, everything but the walls are getting torn out and we’re building it back up.”

The project, Withers said, would create about 300 jobs for masons, drywallers and others.

Benedictine University at Mesa plans to expand beyond just one building, Gregory said. The campus will eventually look and feel like a traditional university campus with collegiate sports programs, dormitories, its own unique mascot, a potential exchange program between campuses and the traditional Benedictine sense of community.

“It was never our intention to be a storefront,” he said.

Students who wish to apply for transfer to the university may begin on Monday, when admissions for the campus open online.

University of Mary, Bismark, N.D., also announced earlier this year that it will partner with Arizona State Unversity to offer a major or minor in theological studies or Catholic studies.

Benedictine University also announced its advisory board for the Mesa campus Thursday.

Members of the board include David Short, executive director of the Downtown Mesa Association; councilman Dennis Kavanaugh; Leo Archer, entrepreneur and curriculum co-chair for the Mesa Leadership Training and Development Program; Sally Harrison, acting CEO of Mesa Chamber of Commerce; David Wier, a vice president and senior business sales officer with Wells Fargo Bank; MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix; Anthony Siebers, managing director of the solar division of HukariAscendent Inc.; Jo Wilson, senior administrator and special assistant to the executive vice president at Benedictine University at Mesa; Charlie Gregory, executive vice president of Benedictine University.

Contact writer: (480) 898-5645 or sspring@evtrib.com

Debate over prayers at public meetings continues


Debate over prayers at public meetings continues

Complaints highlight divisions on religion and government

by Hayley Ringle - Sept. 22, 2012 09:32 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

Phoenix attorney Dianne Post was "utterly shocked" when a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting opened with a Christian prayer.

After researching a year of meetings and discovering that prayer was routinely offered, Post filed a complaint in July with the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, saying the prayer is unconstitutional. Post and the Wisconsin-based foundation then filed a similar complaint in August against the Phoenix City Council. She is working on a similar complaint against the Scottsdale City Council.

"I don't understand these people," said Post, who lives in Phoenix and calls herself a humanist. "That lawyer knows that there is a separation of church and state and this is prohibited, so why aren't they advising these county authorities that they can't do this? This is just basic constitutional law."

Despite the complaint, prayers are commonly given at the beginning of council meetings throughout the Valley, including Tempe, Gilbert, Litchfield Park and Tolleson. Congress also has started with a prayer for almost 200 years.

Prayers at school-board meetings aren't as common. Mesa Public Schools is among the few that still offer a non-denominational prayer. Chandler Unified School District ended the practice last year and opted for a moment of reflection after an Arizona School Boards Association law conference suggested that boards avoid prayers to prevent lawsuits.

The issue is divisive and heated. Depending on the expert, answers are varied on whether prayer is allowed. Some cities, such as Peoria, Surprise and Avondale, and many school boards have replaced the invocation with a moment of silence or choose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Many say prayers are still given because it's a tradition. The councils and school boards that still offer a prayer typically rotate the prayer among staff, religious leaders or community members.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Scottsdale non-profit group, is representing councils in other states in challenges to legislative prayer. Their focus is to "defend the exercise of religious liberty and the right of government to recognize religious heritage and continue with traditional American practices," said senior counsel Brett Harvey.

"We think it's a constitutional right to do this," said Harvey, citing the Marsh vs. Chambers case. "We do feel there's a benefit to seeking divine guidance and asking for wisdom and blessings for the decisions that are made. The Supreme Court has made it clear that it's constitutional. We see no reason why our local officials should not be able to exercise those same rights exercised by our founders."

In the 1983 Marsh case in Nebraska, a challenge was made to the Nebraska Legislature for opening the meeting with a prayer. The U.S. Supreme Court permitted the practice of prayer, saying it predated the founding of the nation.

However, not everyone agrees. Paul Bender, who teaches constitutional law at Arizona State University, and who spoke on the topic Wednesday, said a prayer is unconstitutional, even if it's non-denominational. A non-denominational prayer gives no reference to any particular faith.

"Religion is not supposed to play a part in government," Bender said. "When you start an official government meeting with a prayer, you are saying, I think, that religion is going to play a part, even if it's non-denominational. Government should be religiously neutral."

Traditionally, a prayer is offered at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meetings. Prayers have been offered for decades by a county employee or a religious leader, and the type of prayer depends on who is giving it. They are generally Christian or non-denominational, said county spokeswoman Cari Gerchick. The complaint against the board is being reviewed by the county attorney's office, she said.

The Phoenix City Council has offered a prayer or invocation at its public meetings since 1928, when the council passed an ordinance. Toni Maccarone, a Phoenix spokeswoman, said "the law does allow the city to have a non-denominational prayer." The city's law department is researching the complaint and working on a response.

Although she said the prayers are non-denominational, the complaint said the prayers are "pervasively Christian" with passages commonly recited from the "Judeo-Christian Bible."

School boards

The Gilbert Public Schools governing board, which replaced the prayer with a moment of silence in August 2001, recently came under scrutiny after a board member and a board candidate requested members consider bringing back a non-denominational prayer at the meeting. The four other board members declined to discuss the issue.

Board candidate Daryl Colvin said he finds the moment of silence "insulting, ridiculously short and unnecessary," calling it a "need to bow to political correctness to a ridiculous degree."

"The school district needs to make a decision whether they are there to help perpetuate successful American traditions, or to place a left-wing activism where they want to undermine those traditions," said Colvin, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

An Arizona Republic poll as of Friday generated more than 1,800 responses, with the "no" votes barely edging out the "yes" votes on whether the board should bring back a prayer.

Gilbert board President E.J. Anderson said that although she is a "believer in and supporter of prayer," prayer in school-board meetings is not a simple, straightforward issue.

"It is fraught with many legal issues and ramifications," said Anderson, a member of the Mormon church. "Current law and high-court rulings limit the way we can pray. I believe the current moment of silence allows everyone to pray the way they want. I believe that is important. It makes me very sad that prayer has become a very divisive issue in our community."

Chris Thomas, general counsel for the school-board association, said the safest thing a school board can do is offer a moment of silence or reflection.

"If you do a prayer that references Jesus Christ or any of the tenets of Christianity, that will clearly be unconstitutional," said Thomas, citing two court cases. "Although some communities expect (a prayer), it's only going to take one parent to make a complaint. That's why we have to be careful."

For Mesa Public Schools, a non-denominational prayer has been a "longstanding tradition," said spokeswoman Helen Hollands. "The governing board has continued this tradition over time without discussion," she said.

Go to live.azcentral.com at noon Monday to participate in a live chat about prayer at public meetings. Scheduled to participate are Bradley Abramson, senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, and Anne Mardick, founder and president of the Greater Phoenix chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and of Valley of the Sun chapter of Freedom From Religion Foundation. Send questions to hayley.ringle@arizonarepublic.com.

Ex-pastor accused of killing 2 wives


Ex-pastor accused of killing 2 wives

Sept. 28, 2012 02:34 PM

Associated Press

LEBANON, Pa. -- A retired Pennsylvania pastor insists both of his wives died accidentally. Prosecutors call him a liar -- and a killer.

Already facing trial in the death of his second wife, Arthur Burton "A.B." Schirmer is now charged with killing his first wife, too, after a grand jury concluded her injuries weren't consistent with a fall down the stairs, prosecutors announced Friday.

Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold declined to discuss a motive, but a grand jury report said that Schirmer, 64, had been unfaithful to his first wife, Jewel Schirmer, throughout their 31-year marriage. Court documents also said the couple had financial difficulties.

Schirmer's attorney said his client denies involvement in either of his wives' deaths.

Jewel Schirmer, 50, died at Hershey Medical Center of a traumatic brain injury from a supposed fall. Police and prosecutors reopened the probe after her husband came under investigation in the 2008 death of his second wife, Betty, in the Pocono Mountains. Prosecutors in that case say Schirmer killed his second wife, then staged a car accident to cover it up. He faces trial in January.

Jewel Schirmer's family, who had long suspected foul play, welcomed the decision to charge the retired pastor in her death.

"I've been waiting 13 years for this day to come," said Jewel's brother, Jonathan Behney, appearing at a news conference Friday with Arnold. "It's time for justice."

The district attorney said he did not believe the initial 1999 investigation was botched, though he added no probe is completely free of mistakes.

"Looking back today on what they knew at the time, I wouldn't feel comfortable criticizing the people who worked on it. I don't think it would be fair to them," he said. "We have different technologies available now that they didn't have then."

Technology that would help break the case.

Schirmer has long claimed he was out for a run on April 23, 1999, when he returned home to find his first wife's body in a pool of blood at the bottom of the basement steps. Jewel suffered a fractured skull as well as injuries to her face, body, arms and legs, according to a police affidavit. But the coroner made no determination at that time as to whether her death was an accident or a homicide, and the original investigation was closed after a cardiologist who evaluated her heart for transplant concluded she had also suffered a heart attack.

Taking a fresh look at the case, investigators hired a biomechanical engineering firm to recreate Jewel Schirmer's supposed fall down the stairs. The firm used a test dummy fitted with various instruments to collect data on the forces to which her tumbling body would have been subjected.

"We found the 'crash dummy' evidence to be particularly compelling, as it indicated to us that Jewel could not have suffered all of her injuries by accidentally falling down a flight of stairs," the grand jury wrote.

Another cardiologist, meanwhile, reviewed Jewel's medical records and concluded she had not suffered a heart attack, after all.

The grand jury cited medical testimony that revealed Schirmer likely used blunt objects to kill both his wives.

"We find it particularly disturbing and difficult to believe that both of A.B. Schirmer's wives could have suffered such horrific injuries by accident. To the contrary, we believe probable cause exists to believe that neither woman died from an accident," the report said.

The grand jury also noted Schirmer's "arrogance" when he was subpoenaed to testify.

"Even upon a simple request to provide us with his name, Mr. Schirmer refused to do so," the report said.

At least one of Schirmer's former congregants, Kathy Siegrist, said she felt betrayed by the man who'd led her spiritual life for 20 years, so much so that Siegrist no longer attends a church.

Siegrist -- who called herself Jewel Schirmer's best friend -- said she had always considered A.B. Schirmer, who led Bethany United Methodist Church in Lebanon, to be gentle and kind. But there were hints of a darker side, flashes of anger that Siegrist said she never saw but that her then-husband used to talk about.

"The moment this happened, he told me he thinks A.B. killed her," Siegrist said Friday.

Her former husband wasn't the only one who had suspicions.

Behney, Jewel Schirmer's brother, told police two days after her sister's death that "it was his opinion that her head was smashed in by someone," a police affidavit said. "He added that Arthur had been cheating on his sister for some time and has had several extramarital affairs with other women."

But Schirmer's attorney, James Swetz, said his client will be vindicated.

"Our belief, and what we intend to show in both of these incidents, is that the initial reports were correct, that the Monroe County death was an accident and in Lebanon County there was evidence of heart attack" preceding a fall, Swetz said.

You must pay to pray, Germany bishops say

Only pay for the government services you use?

Sounds like a good idea to me!


You must pay to pray, Germany bishops say

Church is cracking down on worshipers who don't register for taxation

by Juergen Baetz - Sept. 28, 2012 09:01 PM

Associated Press

BERLIN - The road to heaven is paved with more than good intentions for Germany's 24 million Catholics. If they don't pay their religious taxes, they will be denied sacraments, including weddings, baptisms and funerals.

A decree issued last week by the country's bishops cast a spotlight on the long-standing practice in Germany and a handful of other European countries in which governments tax registered believers and then hand over the money to the religious institutions.

In Germany, Catholics, Protestants and Jews pay a surcharge of up to 9 percent on their income tax bills -- or about $72 a month for a single person earning a pretax monthly salary of about $4,500. Many factors in decision

For religious institutions, struggling to maintain their congregations in a secular society, the tax revenues are vital.

Donations represent a far smaller share of the churches' income than in the United States.

With rising economic uncertainty, however, more and more Catholics and Protestants are opting to declare to tax authorities they are no longer church members, even if they still consider themselves believers.

"I quit the church already in 2007," said Manfred Gonschor, a Munich-based IT consultant. "It was when I got a bonus payment and realized that I could have paid myself a nice holiday alone on the amount of church tax that I was paying on it."

Gonschor added he was also "really fed up with the institution and its failures."

Hundreds of thousands leave

Such defections have hit the Catholic Church especially hard -- it has lost about 181,000 taxpaying members in 2010 and 126,000 a year later, according to official figures.

Protestants, who number about 24 million nationwide, lost 145,000 registered members in Germany in 2010, the most recent year from which figures are available.

But the figures include some people who still want to baptize their children, take communion on major religious holidays, marry in a religious ceremony and receive Christian burials.

Those are the people that Germany's Catholic bishops had in mind when they decreed Sept. 20 that stopping the payment of religious taxes was "a serious lapse" and those who did so would then be excluded from a range of church activities.

Catholics will be sent letters

"This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church," the bishops said in a statement. "It is not possible to separate the spiritual community of the Church from the institutional Church."

Wavering Catholics will now be sent letters reminding them of the consequences of avoiding the church tax, including losing access to all sacraments.

Protestants have taken a less stern position, saying nontaxpayers are still welcome to attend services and take communion.

But becoming a godparent, getting married in a church or taking a job in church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals or kindergartens are off-limits to those who stop paying their taxes.

IKEA airbrushes out women from its Saudi catalog

If you ask me religion causes just as many problems as government.


IKEA airbrushes out women from its Saudi catalog

Doug Stanglin

11:05AM EST October 1. 2012 - The Swedish home furnishings store IKEA has airbrushed women from photos in the Saudi version of next year's furniture catalog, the Swedish newspaper Metro reports today.

Metro compares the deletions to Soviet censors who used to airbrush out "state enemies."

In Saudi Arabia, where women must be covered in public and are not allowed to drive, it is not forbidden to depict women in advertising, but strict guidelines are followed, particularly regarding the depiction of very much skin.

In one page of IKEA's standard catalog, a mother is shown brushing her teeth in the bathroom beside a young son. Behind them, in a typically warm IKEA scene, a husband is drying a second child with a towel.

In the Saudi catalog with the identical photo, the mother's image has been deleted.

On another page, women having dinner with a man in the Swedish catalog vanish in the Saudi version, with their images replaced by an empty table.

Metro notes that even a company's female designer is deleted on a page with three male colleagues.

IKEA released a statement expressing regret, saying, "We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values," the Associated Press reports.

Jailing of 'Innocence of Muslims' creator raises free speech worries


Jailing of 'Innocence of Muslims' creator raises free speech worries

By Victoria Kim, Abby Sewell and Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times

October 2, 2012, 9:42 p.m.

As rioting over the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" spread across the Muslim world, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both deplored the film's message but defended the free speech rights of its creators. In Clinton's words: "We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views, no matter how distasteful they may be."

But now one of the film's creators, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is sitting in jail in downtown Los Angeles. He may face two years in prison for allegedly violating the terms of his probation through his actions surrounding the film's production. News of his arrest and detention has been widely covered around the world, causing some to worry about the perception that the United States was punishing Nakoula because of the content of his movie.

Government officials maintained that Nakoula was back in custody not because of the impact of the movie, which portrays the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a child molester, but because he had used aliases in producing the film and lied to probation officers.

Nakoula, who was on a type of probation known in the federal system as supervised release, served time in prison for a 2010 conviction for taking out bank and credit cards under myriad fake identities. He now faces eight charges of probation violation. The allegations include making false statements to authorities about the film — claiming his role was limited to writing the script — and denying he used the alias "Sam Bacile."

Authorities say they have proof Nakoula's role in the movie was "much more expansive" than that of a writer and that Nakoula could face new criminal charges for lying to federal officials.

Probation officials are recommending a two-year prison term for Nakoula, despite a guideline range of four to 10 months.

A federal judge ordered him held in protective custody without bail, saying he is a flight risk and poses "some danger to the community."

Some legal experts said the government was on firm legal footing and had little choice but to enforce the terms of Nakoula's probation once he came onto their radar.

Those on probation don't have the same rights as the average citizen, and authorities have wide discretion over their behavior, the experts said. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld speech restrictions as part of probation in specific cases. Nakoula was barred from using computers or the Internet without permission from his probation officer, though he has not been accused of violating those terms.

"Everything that has happened to him is really consistent with the way the probation office might act if he were doing a film about kittens," said Kenneth P. White, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner in the Los Angeles firm Brown, White & Newhouse.

But others question whether Nakoula's notoriety — and the global political fallout over the contents of the film — is placing more scrutiny on the filmmaker and prompting federal officials to be harsher with him.

"Certainly the sequence of events looks very much as though this man has been arrested and held on account of his producing a film," said Michael W. McConnell, a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit who now directs the Stanford Constitutional Law Center. "It sends exactly the wrong message abroad, because when people are becoming violent to try to pressure the U.S. to violate someone's constitutional rights, we ought to be going out of our way to make it clear that we will not accede to that kind of pressure."

Nakoula's court hearing after his arrest Thursday was anything but a routine probation violation proceeding.

The public was allowed to watch only through a video feed in a separate courthouse blocks away, and U.S. marshals kept the media away from the courtroom. Robert Dugdale, the criminal division chief for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, personally handled Nakoula's hearing, contending misrepresentations by Nakoula had caused "real harm" to those who signed on to work on the film. Vehicles marked "Homeland Security" closed off a stretch of Main Street as Nakoula was whisked away to the federal lockup after the hearing.

News of Nakoula's arrest prompted some critics to charge that the probation violation was a thinly veiled punishment for the film's message. A Wall Street Journal editorial called his detention a 1st Amendment affront saying that even speech that "causes the White House headaches abroad" is still constitutionally protected. George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote on his blog that the case "raises obvious concerns that the Administration is again defending free speech while quietly moving to punish those who cause religious strife."

In an interview, Turley, a criminal defense attorney who has represented high-profile terrorism suspects accused of violent speech, said the charges against Nakoula had "common elements of pretextual charges." He said the government could have been hoping that putting Nakoula behind bars would appease those incensed by the film.

He said the arrest could send the wrong message to the public: "Even if you have a right to say something, the government can still choose to punish you on other grounds."

Neither Nakoula's attorneys nor the U.S. attorney's office would comment for this article.

But legal experts said they anticipate Nakoula's defense will attempt to show Nakoula is being punished for what was said in the film.

"His attorney is going to make the pitch that the government is trying to censor this guy," said Ellen Barry, a veteran criminal defense attorney and a former federal public defender who regularly handles probation violation cases. "The government's argument is going to be, this is exactly the same conduct he was convicted of — he's moving in that direction, make him stop."

Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor and a vocal free speech advocate, wrote on his widely read blog in the early days of the uproar over "Innocence of Muslims" in defense of protections for blasphemous speech. Even so, he said actions against Nakoula do not illustrate a clear case of targeting someone on 1st Amendment grounds.

"I think it's interesting enough that people should be asking questions," he said. "It's not obvious what the answer is."




San Francisco supervisor wants to ban nudity in the city!

I suspect this is all about forcing his puritan religious beliefs on San Francisco's citizens.


Legislation seeks to clothe Castro's naked guys

Heather Knight

Updated 11:15 p.m., Tuesday, October 2, 2012

San Francisco may be a let-it-all-hang-out kind of city, but Supervisor Scott Wiener has a message for the nudists who parade their wares in the city's plazas and sidewalks: Put your pants on.

Wiener on Tuesday proposed legislation that would ban the exposure of genitals or buttocks on all city sidewalks, plazas, parklets, streets and public transit.

Nudity would remain legal at street fairs, festivals and parades - and thus, the Folsom Street Fair, Bay to Breakers and the Gay Pride Parade could remain as flesh-filled as ever. The legislation also wouldn't affect nudity at public beaches or on private property.

At Jane Warner Plaza at Castro and Market streets on Tuesday, the clothed sun worshipers were mostly relieved to hear that the Castro district's famous "naked guys" could soon be forced to be just regular, pants-wearing guys. As many as a dozen nudists gather almost daily in the neighborhood's town square.

"To me, it's uncivilized," griped Lawrence Snyder, a 70-year-old retiree who likes to read the newspaper at least once a week in the plaza. "Even the cavemen wore a little bit of fur, a little bit of leather."

There was one naked guy in the plaza at lunchtime on Tuesday. He arrived in business clothes, stripped down to his shoes, socks and sunglasses and ate a pasta salad.

Despite his very public display at one of the city's most crowded intersections, he declined to give his name for fear his boss or co-workers would find out how he spends his lunch hour.

"I don't see a reason for banning it," he said. "People who don't want to look just turn the other way. Most people just walk by like I'm a streetlight."

Most, but not all. A group of Korean tourists giggled and took photographs of each other in front of the naked guy, saying in halting English that they would never see such a thing in their country.

"It's amazing! He has a lot of confidence," one said.

Chief complaint

But like Fisherman's Wharf, some attractions that are popular among tourists just don't translate to residents. Wiener said public nudity is the top complaint among his Castro district constituents, even beating out homelessness and Muni. He said he actually hears the most complaints from gay residents.

"Some people say this is not what we fought for," he said. "Being able to expose your genitals at Castro and Market is not the goal of the LGBT civil rights movement."

Last year, Wiener passed legislation known as the "skid mark law." That law, which passed the Board of Supervisors unanimously, requires nudists to place barriers between their bare bottoms and public chairs or benches, but many Castro residents complained that didn't go far enough.

"I thought it would work itself out, but unfortunately it didn't," Wiener said. "It's only gotten more extreme and over the top. A lot of people in the community have reached the end of their rope."

He said he has seen the naked guys publicly wearing genital jewelry designed to stimulate arousal. He's heard reports from others that the naked guys have publicly engaged in sexual touching and charge tourists $5 to take pictures with them.

The Mission Station police who patrol the area have said they've received an increasing number of complaints about public nudity, but that they can't do anything about it unless there's associated lewd behavior. Currently, San Francisco bans nudity only in parks and restaurants and on port property.

The only option a fed-up resident has is to file a citizen's complaint and testify in court that they were personally offended by the nudity, which Wiener said never happens.

New rules

Under his legislation, a naked person would receive a $100 fine for the first offense and a $200 fine for the second offense in a 12-month period. A third offense could result in either a third infraction ticket with a $500 fine or a misdemeanor. A conviction under the proposed law wouldn't constitute a sex offense. Berkeley and San Jose have similar bans on public nudity.

Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday that he supports Wiener's proposal.

"I can understand people like sunbathing, but let's have a level of balance here," he said. "On behalf of kids who shouldn't really have to view this, and on behalf of parents that walk their kids to school, we're going to create those balanced constrictions."

That sounds good to Leki Loketi, a 42-year-old bartender who can see Jane Warner Plaza from his apartment.

"This is a liberal neighborhood, and they're taking advantage of it," he said.

Dan Glazer, a 54-year-old restaurant owner, said he's a little conflicted about the proposed ban because of the civil rights issue, but that he's had enough of the nudists. Most of them don't even live in the neighborhood, he said.

"They're annoying, like mosquitoes," he said.

Perhaps the most common nudity-related complaint among those populating the plaza on Tuesday was one echoed by Snyder, the 70-year-old retiree.

"The ones who are nude are the ones who should keep their clothes on," he said. "That's my feeling."

San Francisco Chronicle staff writers John Coté and John Wildermuth contributed to this report. Heather Knight is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: hknight@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @hknightsf

Egyptian boys locked up for urinating on Quran

I wonder if taking a leak on the Koran is a capital offense in Egypt???


Egyptian boys locked up for urinating on Quran

Oct. 3, 2012 09:35 AM

Associated Press

CAIRO -- An Islamic cleric and prosecutors say two Coptic Christian boys are in juvenile detention after locals complained they urinated on pages of the Islamic holy book in southern Egypt.

The boys, ages 9 and 10, were detained earlier this week. It's a rare case of minors being accused of contempt for Islam, although Egypt has seen a rise in the use of the law against Coptic Christian adults amid fury over an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S.

Sheik Gamal Shamarkal, who is following the case in the southern el-Fashn town, said Wednesday the two boys couldn't have acted alone and must remain in custody until they confess who incited them.

Algeria at UN: Limit free speech, protect Islam


Algeria at UN: Limit free speech, protect Islam

Sept. 29, 2012 09:37 AM

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS -- Algeria is proposing an initiative under the auspices of the United Nations that would limit freedom of expression in order to prevent the stigmatizing and denigrating of Islam.

Algeria's Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said a global response is needed following the recent violent demonstrations provoked by a U.S.-produced video which mocks Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad.

Dozens of world leaders raised the issue of free speech versus denigration of religion at this year's ministerial meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.

Malaysia's foreign minister Anifah Aman told the assembly on Saturday that attacks on Islam shouldn't be protected by freedom of speech laws.

"Why is it when Muslims are stigmatized and defamed, it is defended as freedom of expression?" he asked.

Europe's fight over religious free speech flares up again


Europe's fight over free speech flares up again

2:21 AM, October 5, 2012

USA Today

by Stuart Braun, Special for USA TODAY

BERLIN - Bans on an anti-Islam video. Forbidding protests against it. Arrests for blasphemy.

The ongoing furor over a video and cartoons mocking the Muslim prophet Mohammed has reignited old dilemmas over free speech in Europe, with calls for stricter blasphemy laws, bans on protests and debates over how much free speech to allow.

"I don't think we can get into the situation in which any minority sect, any religion, is allowed to demarcate the things that other people are allowed to say," said Ben Tonra, who specializes in European relations at Dublin University in Ireland. "For me personally, the primacy has got to be given to free speech."

But not all agree with this in Europe, which has a history of curtailing speech the government deems offensive or disruptive. Governments here do not have constitutions that enshrine the rights of individuals to express themselves, and are looking for ways to legally prevent their citizens from criticizing Islam however crudely.

Russia, which recently jailed a rock band for singing a song against President Vladimir Putin, ordered the video The Innocence of Muslims banned. And Putin announced he is pushing for an anti-blasphemy law on "insulting religions and people's religious sentiment."

The German government is considering whether to find a way to prevent a group from showing the video to the public. France has banned other mocking images of Mohammed and it continues to face protests over a French magazine publishing provocative cartoons of Mohammed.

Unlike the United States, free speech is limited in Europe with numerous statutes that ban hate speech, blasphemy, Holocaust denial and even phrases deemed insults to bureaucrats and police officers.

When Germany's far right political party, Pro Deutschland, announced it planned to screen the video The Innocence of Muslims politicians responded by trying to tighten 140-year-old blasphemy laws. After all, Germany has an estimated 4 million Muslims and its embassy in Sudan was set on fire last month by men egged on by Islamist leaders.

But German Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich opposed the measures, saying that German law also protects "freedom of expression and artistic freedom."

Muslim nations say Europe's reluctance to ban insults to Islam show that the West is anti-Islam. Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf demanded an international ban on a film he equated to "hate speech" and "blasphemy."

"(It's) equal to the worst kind of anti-Semitism or other kind of bigotry," he added.

Some European nations have blasphemy laws that have shielded Christian faiths. In Greece, a 27-year-old man was arrested for blasphemy last week after posting "insulting religious" material on a Facebook page satirizing a famous Greek monk. He faces up to two years in jail.

Free speech advocates in Europe say criminalizing offensive speech is not a solution to maintaining order.

"Blasphemy laws ... almost inevitably contradict free speech by banning debate about religion, and should be scrapped altogether," said Agnes Callamard, director of Article 19, an international free speech advocacy group based in London.

But Callamard agreed there have to be some limits.

"States are obliged to prohibit certain speech that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence," she said, noting that such limits are enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights â?? ratified by a vast majority of the world's nations.

"States must promote equality and freedom of expression jointly," she added. "They can do this by protecting the right to be heard and the right to speak, by promoting intercultural understanding, supporting diverse and pluralistic media, and so on."

German courts recently upheld free speech rights when politicians have tried to stop the airing of provocative material. In May, a small right wing party, Pro-NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia), held up anti-Islamic caricatures in front of mosques â?? some depicting Muslims as terrorists. Some Muslims in Bonn responded with violent protests.

Ralf Jaeger, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, banned the cartoons. But the Federal Constitutional Court overruled him, saying the caricatures alone did not represent a grave enough threat to public order and security to limit free speech. Still, the court could have ruled otherwise.

The French response to cartoons lampooning Mohammed that were published in the weekly French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, shows Europe's confused approach to freedom of expression, analysts say. The largely secular and atheistic French have accommodated insulting portrayals of Christianity. And when protesters threatened to voice their opinions by marching to oppose the cartoons, French officials banned the marches.

"I think genuinely that is a discussion and debate that has to happen at a national level because if you take Germany, there are particular sensitivities and particular historical resonances which are different than for example would exist in the French context," Tonra said.

Individual thoughts on European history is particularly tricky. French President Francois Hollande is drafting a new law to punish ongoing denial of the 1915-16 Armenian genocide by Turkey. Denying the Holocaust happened is a crime in some European countries.

Timothy Garton Ash, director of Free Speech Debate, a research project at the University of Oxford, said such well-intentioned laws could be counter-productive.

"When you start using the law, you're taking a very big hammer and only hitting a few very small nails â?? that's the trouble with the way hate speech laws are applied," he said. "They only tend to hit one or two people, often in a random and inconsistent way."

But in Germany and Austria, the carrying of Nazi symbols like the swastika or the claims that the Nazis did not murder 6 million Jews is seen as a movement to bring back the death squads and concentration camps of World War II. Such expression can carry criminal penalties and in one case, British historian David Irving was sentenced in 2006 to three years in prison for Holocaust denial.

"That was a huge mistake â?? there should be no taboos in the discussion of knowledge," said Garton Ash of Irving's sentence. "The Austrian court, by imprisoning him, enabled him to pose as a martyr for free speech. It's a classic example of how counter-productive such laws can be."

He says the only solution is to counter offensive speech with "more and better speech, which is the classic First Amendment and my personal position."

He pointed to a devout British Muslim, Syed Mahmood, who's widely viewed YouTube video, "A Muslim's Reaction to Muhammad Movie Trailer," declared abhorrence for the anti-Muslim film but strongly opposed any violent response.

"It's such a brilliant example," Ash said. "It's a great example of what you can do with new media to counter that sort of hatred."

Paul Penzone ain't much better then Sheriff Joe Arpaio!!!!

OK, I know, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the biggest Nazi in the world.

But sadly Paul Penzone isn't much better.

He is a big fan of the "drug war" and in fact he was an undercover narcotics agent for several years.

If Paul Penzone gets elected you can count on many more years of the insane drug war in Maricopa County.

That's not to say I like Sheriff Joe. Sheriff Joe is an evil person and probably the worst Sheriff in the USA, if not the world.

Here are some snips from the New Times article article about Paul Penzone.


Penzone's garnered a long list of high-profile endorsements from Democrats and Republicans, the latter including such GOPers as former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods and ex-U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton.


He [Paul Penzone] regularly hikes North Mountain or Piestewa Peak with a friend from the DEA


In response, Penzone ... opened a Bible, haphazardly, to 1 Samuel, Chapter 17, the story of David and Goliath and their death battle in the Valley of Elah [I wonder is Paul Penzone a Christian nut job, who will mix religion and policing???]


He discusses his 21 years as a cop, his work as an undercover narcotics officer, and later as a cross-deputized agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, dismantling large drug-dealing organizations with the assistance of federal wiretaps. Plus, he offers a bit of motivation.


A 1997 commendation describes how he led an investigation into a criminal organization of meth-dealing white supremacists, authoring a 60-page wiretap affidavit, which led to the conviction of 19 suspects on federal drug-trafficking charges and the eradication of two underground meth labs.


After ChildHelp, Penzone worked with the anti-drug outfit notMYkid, which he quit at the end of 2011 to devote himself full time to running for sheriff.

Congressman calls evolution lie from 'pit of hell'


Congressman calls evolution lie from 'pit of hell'

Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia Rep. Paul Broun said in videotaped remarks that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are "lies straight from the pit of hell."

The Republican lawmaker made those comments during a speech Sept. 27 at a sportsman's banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell. Broun, a medical doctor, is running for re-election in November unopposed by Democrats.

During the remarks, Broun said that he believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days. Those beliefs are held by fundamentalist Christians who believe the creation accounts in the Bible are literally true.

Broun spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti told the Athens Banner-Herald (http://bit.ly/Us4O0Z ) that Broun was recorded speaking to a church group about his religious beliefs. He sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Broun: Evolution, big bang theory are "lies straight from the pit of hell"


Broun: Evolution, big bang theory are "lies straight from the pit of hell"

By Nick Coltrain

updated Friday, October 5, 2012 - 10:35pm

Evolution and the big bang theory are “lies to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior,” U.S. Rep. Paul Broun said in a recently released video.

In the video, taken from the 2012 Sportsman’s Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Broun also repeated fundamentalist Christian tenets that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and the Holy Bible is a guidebook to every aspect of life.

Talking Points Memo first posted a short clip of the 47-minute speech Friday afternoon. The full speech was posted Thursday, according to the Liberty Baptist Church’s YouTube page.

Broun, a Republican from Oconee County, is a medical doctor and running unopposed in District 10 on the November ballot. He serves on the Congressional science and technology, and homeland security committees.

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the big bang theory; all of that is lies straight from the pit of hell,” Broun told the crowd.

“And it’s lies to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there’s a lot of scientific data that I’ve found as a scientist that this really is a young earth. I don’t believe that the earth is but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was made in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible tells us.”

Meredith Griffanti, the Washington, D.C., spokeswoman for Broun, made just a brief statement about the video.

“Dr. Broun was speaking off the record to a large church group about his personal beliefs regarding religious issues,” she wrote in an email.

In the full video, he told the crowd that he was inspired by God to make his first run for Congress in 1990. He was elected in 2007.

In the video, he also shared stories of how he acquired some of the hunting trophies that adorn his Washington, D.C., office. In particular, there was a story of shooting a bear in the chest and then the bear running for 15 minutes. When they found it, Broun said the bear’s heart and lungs were destroyed by his bullet.

“I can tell you as a medical doctor, in four minutes, your brain dies,” he said. “How that bear did that, I don’t know.”

In another story, Broun said he believes God guided a bullet to kill a lion that was about to bound into the back of a truck he was riding in.

The shortened video can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=rikEWuBrkHc. The entire speech is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=eU4B86AL5Go.

• Follow government and business reporter Nick Coltrain at twitter.com/ncoltrain or on Facebook at facebook.com/NickColtrainABH.

Taliban says it shot ‘infidel’ Pakistani teen for advocating girls’ rights


Taliban says it shot ‘infidel’ Pakistani teen for advocating girls’ rights

By Haq Nawaz Khan and Michele Langevine Leiby, Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 6:49 AM

PESHAWAR, Pakistan— A 14-year-old Pakistani activist who won international acclaim for speaking out for girls denied education under the Taliban was shot Tuesday on her way home from school, authorities said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on ninth-grader Malala Yousafzai, who officials said was shot in the neck by at least one gunman who approached a school bus in Mingora, a city in the scenic Swat valley in the country’s northwest.

Shazai, another victim who was wounded when gunmen opened fire on the bus carrying Malala Yousafzai, explains the incident. (Source: The Express Tribune)

Yousafzai, who was taken to a military hospital in Peshawar, was expected to survive, doctors said. A seventh-grade girl was shot in the leg, local police said.

Taliban insurgents controlled Swat for two years until a massive military operation drove them out in May 2009, but sporadic attacks have continued in the area.

Yousafzai became known in early 2009, when she wrote a diary about Taliban atrocities under a pen name for the BBC’s Urdu service. In 2011, the Pakistani government awarded her a 1 million rupee ($10,500) prize and a peace award for her bravery in raising her voice for children’s rights and girls’ education when few others in Pakistan dared to.

Yousafzai also was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011.

The seventh-grader who was wounded in the leg said she and her classmates were leaving school when the attack occurred.

“Two bearded armed men stopped our school van and asked for Malala and opened fire from behind the van,” the girl, named Shazia, said from the hospital where she and Yousafzai were first taken.

Ihsanullah Ihsan, chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said in calls to the media that the militant group targeted Yousafzai because she generated “negative propaganda” about Muslims.

“She considers President Obama as her ideal. Malala is the symbol of the infidels and obscenity,” Ihsan said.

Political leaders condemned the attack.

“We have to fight the mind-set that is involved in this. We have to condemn it,” Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told the Pakistani Senate. “Malala is like my daughter and yours, too. If that mind-set prevails, then whose daughter would be safe?”

Yousafzai also is an advocate for literacy in the Swat valley. She started her diary when the Taliban banned girls’ education and bombed hundreds of schools, mostly those for girls, in Swat.

Her father, Zia Uddin Yousafzai, is an educator and a member of Swat’s peace jirga, or tribal gathering.

“She is all right,” he said in an interview. “Please pray for her early recovery and health.”

After being forced out of Swat, Pakistani Taliban fighters relocated to the Afghan border region near the eastern Afghan provinces of Konar and Nurestan. They are blamed for attacks on Pakistani forces from across the border.

“This is a highly condemnable act of terror and an attempt to silence a brave voice,” Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a spokesman for the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, said.

In her diary, Yousafzai wrote about her fears and growing Taliban influence. One morning, she wore her favorite pink dress. “During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colorful clothes as the Taliban would object to it,” she wrote.

In another entry, she wrote: “On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you.’ ” I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else . . . .”

Pakistan Erupts in Anger Over Taliban’s Shooting of Schoolgirl


Pakistan Erupts in Anger Over Taliban’s Shooting of Schoolgirl


Published: October 10, 2012 Comment

KARACHI, Pakistan — Doctors on Wednesday removed a bullet from a Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban, as Pakistanis from across the political and religious spectrum united in revulsion at the attack on the 14-year-old education rights campaigner. Multimedia

The attack on Malala Yousafzai occurred in Mingora, Swat Valley’s main town, when masked gunmen stopped a bus carrying schoolgirls who had just taken an exam.

A Taliban gunman singled out and shot the girl, Malala Yousafzai, on Tuesday, and a spokesman said it was in retaliation for her work in promoting girls’ education and children’s rights in the northwestern Swat Valley, near the Afghan border.

Ms. Yousafzai was removed from immediate danger after the operation in a military hospital in Peshawar early Wednesday, during which surgeons removed a bullet that had passed through her head and lodged in her shoulder, one hospital official said.

The government kept a Boeing jet from the national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, on standby at the Peshawar airport to fly Ms. Yousafzai to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for emergency treatment if necessary, although senior officials said she was too weak to fly.

“She is improving. But she is still unconscious,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the provincial information minister, whose only son was shot dead by the Taliban in 2010. He said Ms. Yousafzai remained on a ventilator.

Mr. Hussain announced a government reward of more than $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of her attackers. “Whoever has done it is not a human and does not have a human soul,” he said.

Across the rest of the country, Pakistanis reacted with outrage to the attack on the girl, whose eloquent and determined advocacy of girls’ education had made her powerful symbol of resistance to Taliban ideology.

“Malala is our pride. She became an icon for the country,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

The army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, visited the Peshawar hospital where Ms. Yousafzai was being treated; in a rare public statement he condemned the “twisted ideology” of the “cowards” who had attacked her. Her parents and another teacher from her school remained at her side in the hospital.

The cricket star turned opposition politician Imran Khan offered to pay for her treatment, while his party officials parried accusations that they were soft on the Taliban.

Last weekend Mr. Khan led a motor cavalcade of supporters to the edge of the tribal belt as part of a demonstration against American drone strikes in the area — a theme that, until now at least, has frequently been a more concentrated focus of public anger than Taliban violence.

Even Jamaat ud Dawa, the charity wing of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which follows a different strain of Islam from the Taliban, condemned the attack. “Shameful, despicable, barbaric attempt,” read a message on the group’s official Twitter feed. “Curse b upon assassins and perpetrators.”

The anger was amplified by the Taliban’s brazen claims of responsibility for the shooting, and avowals that the group would attack Ms. Yousafzai again if it got a second chance. Reports circulated that the Taliban had also promised to target her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who privately appealed to neighbors from Swat not to visit the hospital in case of a second attack.

In the Swat Valley, private schools remained closed in protest over the attack.

Some commentators wondered whether the shooting would galvanize public opinion against the Taliban in the same way as a video that aired in 2009, showing a Taliban fighter flogging a teenage girl in Swat, had primed public opinion for a large military offensive against the militants that summer.

“The time to root out terrorism has come,” Bushra Gohar of the Awami National Party, which governs Swat and the surrounding Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, told Parliament.

But no military drive is in the offing in Swat for the moment, officials say — in fact, a large army contingent has occupied the picturesque mountain valley since 2009, which contributed to alarm by the prospect of a Taliban resurgence in the area.

Among some commentators, there was a sense that rage was redundant: that unless Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders drop all equivocation about Islamist extremism, the country is likely to suffer further such traumas.

“We are infected with the cancer of extremism, and unless it is cut out we will slide ever further into the bestiality that this latest atrocity exemplifies,” read an editorial in The News International, a major English-language daily.

Reporting was contributed by Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan; Sana ul Haq from Mingora, Pakistan; Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud from Islamabad, Pakistan; and Zia ur-Rehman from Karachi.

Center for Arizona Policy Pathetic Laws Go Into Effect Today


Center for Arizona Policy Reminds Everyone Its Pathetic Laws Go Into Effect Today

By Matthew Hendley Thu., Aug. 2 2012 at 2:47 PM

Dear Jesus please save me from your nutty followers Thanks to Center for Arizona Policy legislative council Josh Kredit, we were reminded today of all the mostly useless laws "supported" by CAP that are going into effect today.

Kredit posted the list of CAP's bills that were passed by the Legislature and are going into effect today, which are a great public service to just about nobody.

For example, "The Arizona Commission on the Arts cannot use taxpayer dollars on programs that include obscenity or that desecrate or dishonor religious objects or the Arizona or American flags."

The lobbying organization, which describes itself as being "dedicated to influencing our culture through the proclamation of biblical truth," has now seen 114 of its ideas turn into laws since 1995.

We presume they don't keep track of the bills they influence legislators against when they're too gay or something.

Anyway, Kredit says the new laws are thanks to you, Arizona voter, "...because you turned out and voted your values that these laws are a reality."

Here are the blessings to Arizona law that Kredit listed:


  • Abortion clinics must post signs in their waiting rooms letting women know that it is illegal for them to be pressured by anyone - including boyfriends and clinic staff - into having an abortion.
  • Women must have their ultrasound and the opportunity to view the image of their preborn child at least 24 hours before having an abortion.
  • Arizona Department of Health Services (DHS) must create an informed consent website for women considering abortion so they can get the facts about the life growing inside them.
  • When a woman discovers that her child may have a life-threatening birth defect, she must be informed about the support that is available to her, including perinatal hospice.
  • Planned Parenthood will no longer be able to come into public schools and promote abortions as the preferred option over childbirth and adoption.
  • Parents cannot file a lawsuit against a doctor claiming that their child with a disability would have been better off aborted.
  • Abortion providers are disqualified from eligibility for the Working Poor Tax Credit.


  • Arizonans can now claim an additional tax credit for donations to School Tuition Organizations, with this new tax credit going specifically to students stuck on waiting lists to attend the school of their parents' choice.
  • Children in public schools and libraries will be better protected from exposure to online pornography because online filters must be installed on public computers.
  • Students attending failing public schools will be eligible for Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Account program to attend the school of their parents' choice.


  • Arizona's professionals licensed by the state cannot have their licenses threatened because of the free exercise of their religious beliefs.
  • Religious organizations cannot be forced by the government to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs or contraception if it violates their religious beliefs.
  • University and college professors cannot be denied tenure because of their political or religious beliefs.
  • The Arizona Commission on the Arts cannot use taxpayer dollars on programs that include obscenity or that desecrate or dishonor religious objects or the Arizona or American flags.


  • Proponents of a ballot measure will have legal standing to defend a proposition if it is ever challenged in court.

Two of CAP's new laws will not be going into effect today, as they're facing legal challenges: A ban on abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, and a ban on Planned Parenthood from providing care to participants in the state's Medicaid program.

CAP Now Concerned About People "Touching or Tipping" Strippers


By Matthew Hendley Mon., Jun. 11 2012 at 2:55 PM

Dear Jesus please save me from your nutty followers The Center for Arizona Policy would like anyone running for a seat at the Legislature to give their opinions on professionals like these.

For some reason, lobbyists at the Center for Arizona Policy would like anyone running for a seat in the Legislature this year to tell the group whether they support banning the "touching or tipping" of strippers.

The surveys, which usually are a good indication of the CAP morality cops' agenda for the next legislative session, are updated every two years.

In 2010, one of the questions on the survey asked whether the candidate supported or opposed "[r]egulating sexually oriented businesses to the fullest extent possible under the law."

Not surprisingly, that led to Republican state Representative Steve Court introducing a bill last session to regulate strip clubs and the so-called "adult-oriented businesses."

Court's bill would have banned alcohol and private rooms from these establishments, regulated the size of stages, and redefined the terms "nude" and "seminude," among other changes.

The bill was held from the start -- never becoming an actual topic of discussion -- and Court admitted this was the idea of Cathi Herrod and her CAP.

In this year's survey from CAP, the question's a little different -- a possible indication of what kind of legislation Herrod will convince some sucker to introduce next session.

"Prohibiting touching or tipping dancers and fully nude performances in sexually oriented businesses," is what many potential legislators will address, opting to express their support or opposition.

These surveys were due on Friday, but haven't yet been posted by CAP.

This isn't the least bit surprising coming from the group, which has an obsession with legislating morality and instituting Christian Right policies, and these laughable bills are sometimes signed into law -- 114 and counting.

This year's survey also includes two other new questions and one amended question.

One asks whether the candidates support lowering the minimum sentencing guidelines for possessing child pornography, and another asks whether the candidates support subsidizing paid time off for public employees to engage in union activities.

The amended question, which previously asked whether candidates supported "[p]rotecting healthcare professionals from being required to provide services that violate their moral or religious beliefs," no longer includes the word "healthcare."

For those interested, CAP also scores how much Herrod ass-kissing each legislator engages in, grading both state senators and representatives.

Flushing "free speech" down the toilet for "religious freedom"???

You have the right to free speech as long as you don't insult the religious nut jobs!!!!


Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech

Brian Stauffer for The Washington Post

By Jonathan Turley, Published: October 12

Free speech is dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony.

In the face of the violence that frequently results from anti-religious expression, some world leaders seem to be losing their patience with free speech. After a video called “Innocence of Muslims” appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in several Muslim nations last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that “when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.”

It appears that the one thing modern society can no longer tolerate is intolerance. As Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard put it in her recent speech before the United Nations, “Our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred.”

A willingness to confine free speech in the name of social pluralism can be seen at various levels of authority and government. In February, for instance, Pennsylvania Judge Mark Martin heard a case in which a Muslim man was charged with attacking an atheist marching in a Halloween parade as a “zombie Muhammed.” Martin castigated not the defendant but the victim, Ernie Perce, lecturing him that “our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures — which is what you did.”

Of course, free speech is often precisely about pissing off other people — challenging social taboos or political values.

This was evident in recent days when courts in Washington and New York ruled that transit authorities could not prevent or delay the posting of a controversial ad that says: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”

When U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer said the government could not bar the ad simply because it could upset some Metro riders, the ruling prompted calls for new limits on such speech. And in New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority responded by unanimously passing a new regulation banning any message that it considers likely to “incite” others or cause some “other immediate breach of the peace.”

Such efforts focus not on the right to speak but on the possible reaction to speech — a fundamental change in the treatment of free speech in the West. The much-misconstrued statement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that free speech does not give you the right to shout fire in a crowded theater is now being used to curtail speech that might provoke a violence-prone minority. Our entire society is being treated as a crowded theater, and talking about whole subjects is now akin to shouting “fire!”

The new restrictions are forcing people to meet the demands of the lowest common denominator of accepted speech, usually using one of four rationales.

Speech is blasphemous

This is the oldest threat to free speech, but it has experienced something of a comeback in the 21st century. After protests erupted throughout the Muslim world in 2005 over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Western countries publicly professed fealty to free speech, yet quietly cracked down on anti-religious expression. Religious critics in France, Britain, Italy and other countries have found themselves under criminal investigation as threats to public safety. In France, actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has been fined several times for comments about how Muslims are undermining French culture. And just last month, a Greek atheist was arrested for insulting a famous monk by making his name sound like that of a pasta dish.

Some Western countries have classic blasphemy laws — such as Ireland, which in 2009 criminalized the “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter” deemed “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion.” The Russian Duma recently proposed a law against “insulting religious beliefs.” Other countries allow the arrest of people who threaten strife by criticizing religions or religious leaders. In Britain, for instance, a 15-year-old girl was arrested two years agofor burning a Koran.

Western governments seem to be sending the message that free speech rights will not protect you — as shown clearly last month by the images of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the YouTube filmmaker, being carted away in California on suspicion of probation violations. Dutch politician Geert Wilders went through years of litigation before he was acquitted last year on charges of insulting Islam by voicing anti-Islamic views. In the Netherlandsand Italy, cartoonists and comedians have been charged with insulting religion through caricatures or jokes.

Even the Obama administration supported the passage of a resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council to create an international standard restricting some anti-religious speech (its full name: “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief”). Egypt’s U.N. ambassador heralded the resolution as exposing the “true nature” of free speech and recognizing that “freedom of expression has been sometimes misused” to insult religion.

At a Washington conference last yearto implement the resolution, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that it would protect both “the right to practice one’s religion freely and the right to express one’s opinion without fear.” But it isn’t clear how speech can be protected if the yardstick is how people react to speech — particularly in countries where people riot over a single cartoon. Clinton suggested that free speech resulting in “sectarian clashes” or “the destruction or the defacement or the vandalization of religious sites” was not, as she put it, “fair game.”

Given this initiative, President Obama’s U.N. address last month declaring America’s support for free speech, while laudable, seemed confused — even at odds with his administration’s efforts.

Speech is hateful

In the United States, hate speech is presumably protected under the First Amendment. However, hate-crime laws often redefine hateful expression as a criminal act. Thus, in 2003, the Supreme Court addressed the conviction of a Virginia Ku Klux Klan member who burned a cross on private land. The court allowed for criminal penalties so long as the government could show that the act was “intended to intimidate” others. It was a distinction without meaning, since the state can simply cite the intimidating history of that symbol.

Other Western nations routinely bar forms of speech considered hateful. Britain prohibits any “abusive or insulting words” meant “to stir up racial hatred.” Canada outlaws “any writing, sign or visible representation” that “incites hatred against any identifiable group.” These laws ban speech based not only on its content but on the reaction of others. Speakers are often called to answer for their divisive or insulting speech before bodies like the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

This month, a Canadian court ruled that Marc Lemire, the webmaster of a far-right political site, could be punished for allowing third parties to leave insulting comments about homosexuals and blacks on the site. Echoing the logic behind blasphemy laws, Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley ruled that “the minimal harm caused . . . to freedom of expression is far outweighed by the benefit it provides to vulnerable groups and to the promotion of equality.”

Speech is discriminatory

Perhaps the most rapidly expanding limitation on speech is found in anti-discrimination laws. Many Western countries have extended such laws to public statements deemed insulting or derogatory to any group, race or gender.

For example, in a closely watched case last year, a French court found fashion designer John Gallianoguilty of making discriminatory comments in a Paris bar, where he got into a cursing match with a couple using sexist and anti-Semitic terms. Judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud read a list of the bad words Galliano had used, adding that she found (rather implausibly) he had said “dirty whore” at least 1,000 times. Though he faced up to six months in jail, he was fined.

In Canada, comedian Guy Earle was charged with violating the human rights of a lesbian couple after he got into a trash-talking session with a group of women during an open-mike night at a nightclub. Lorna Pardysaid she suffered post-traumatic stress because of Earle’s profane language and derogatory terms for lesbians. The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled last year that since this was a matter of discrimination, free speech was not a defense, and awarded about $23,000 to the couple.

Ironically, while some religious organizations are pushing blasphemy laws, religious individuals are increasingly targeted under anti-discrimination laws for their criticism of homosexuals and other groups. In 2008, a minister in Canada was not only forced to pay fines for uttering anti-gay sentiments but was also enjoined from expressing such views in the future.

Speech is deceitful

In the United States, where speech is given the most protection among Western countries, there has been a recent effort to carve out a potentially large category to which the First Amendment would not apply. While we have always prosecuted people who lie to achieve financial or other benefits, some argue that the government can outlaw any lie, regardless of whether the liar secured any economic gain.

One such law was the Stolen Valor Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2006, which made it a crime for people to lie about receiving military honors. The Supreme Court struck it down this year, but at least two liberal justices, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, proposed that such laws should have less of a burden to be upheld as constitutional. The House responded with new legislation that would criminalize lies told with the intent to obtain any undefined “tangible benefit.”

The dangers are obvious. Government officials have long labeled whistleblowers, reporters and critics as “liars” who distort their actions or words. If the government can define what is a lie, it can define what is the truth.

For example, in Februarythe French Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law that made it a crime to deny the 1915 Armenian genocide by Turkey — a characterization that Turkey steadfastly rejects. Despite the ruling, various French leaders pledged to pass new measures punishing those who deny the Armenians’ historical claims.

The impact of government limits on speech has been magnified by even greater forms of private censorship. For example, most news organizations have stopped showing images of Muhammad, though they seem to have no misgivings about caricatures of other religious figures. The most extreme such example was supplied by Yale University Press, which in 2009 published a book about the Danish cartoons titled “The Cartoons That Shook the World” — but cut all of the cartoons so as not to insult anyone.

The very right that laid the foundation for Western civilization is increasingly viewed as a nuisance, if not a threat. Whether speech is deemed imflammatory or hateful or discriminatory or simply false, society is denying speech rights in the name of tolerance, enforcing mutual respect through categorical censorship.

As in a troubled marriage, the West seems to be falling out of love with free speech. Unable to divorce ourselves from this defining right, we take refuge instead in an awkward and forced silence.


Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University.

Religious hypocrites??? Black collar pedophiles?


Phoenix diocese releases list of clergy involved in abuse cases

By Michael Clancy The Republic | azcentral.com

Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:23 PM

The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has released a list of 29 clergy members who have been accused or convicted of abusing children, becoming one of only 25 dioceses in the United States that has published such a list.

The publication came on Tuesday as part of a release about the 10 years of the Dallas Charter to protect children from abusive priests and deacons.

The list includes 29 names, including at least one that had not been public before. But it does not include the names of priests who were deceased at the time of accusations against them.

Among those in the latter category is former Bishop James Rausch, who died in 1981.

A Republic listing of those accused of sexual abuse includes 39 names, 40 after the previously unknown priest, Harry Morgan, is added. It includes those who died prior to the accusations.

The diocese published four lists on its website. The first, List of Diocese of Phoenix Priests and Deacons who have been laicized and/or removed from ministry due to sexual misconduct with a minor, contains 15 names.

The second list, including those accused of sexual misconduct and have a case pending, has just one name.

The third list shows religious priests and deacons, and the list includes 10 names.

The fourth and final list, priests from other dioceses, has three names.

In Phoenix, the number of accusations has slowed to a trickle since the height of the scandal in 2002-03. Only one court case is pending, a civil action against the diocese.

It was unclear whether the report would include an accounting of costs. None had been posted as of midafternoon Tuesday.

The diocese reported expenditures in 2004 of $2.7 million.

A comprehensive accounting of costs would include legal settlements, defense attorneys, maintaining a diocesan abuse office, counseling for victims, therapy for accused priests and the cost of accused priests' ongoing living expenses.

Nationally, Catholic dioceses are believed to have spent more than $2 billion on the abuse scandal.

Diocese of Phoenix list of abusive priests

  1. George Bredeman
  2. Joseph Briceno
  3. Patrick Colleary
  4. John Doran
  5. Laurence Florez
  6. Dale Fushek
  7. John Giandelone
  8. Harold Graf
  9. Mark Lehman
  10. Joseph Lessard
  11. Harry Morgan
  12. Maxwell "Ron" Pelton
  13. George Pirrung
  14. Wilputte "Lan" Sherwood
  15. John T. Sullivan
  16. John Spaulding
  17. Neil Emon
  18. Joseph Henn
  19. Louie Ladenburger
  20. Paul LeBrun
  21. Karl LeClaire
  22. Jorge Ortiz Lopez
  23. Lawrence Lovell
  24. Donald McGuire
  25. Richard Ohlemacher
  26. Henry Perez
  27. Jorge Cordova
  28. Sung Lam
  29. Lawrence Riebe

AG backs cheerleaders in scripture-banner flap


AG backs cheerleaders in scripture-banner flap

Oct. 17, 2012 10:11 AM

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Wednesday he will defend high school cheerleaders who want to use Bible verses on banners at football games.

Abbott has filed court papers to intervene in a lawsuit that cheerleaders at Kountze High School filed against the school district complaining that a new policy violated their freedom of speech. In September, district officials told the cheerleaders to stop using Bible verses at football games after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained.

The atheist group argued that using banners with phrases such as, "I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me," violates the First Amendment prohibition on the government establishing a religion.

After the school told the cheerleaders they could no longer use Bible verses, they filed suit in Hardin County district court. State District Judge Steve Thomas put a hold on the new school policy while he considered the arguments, and the cheerleaders continued to make the banners. He is expected to rule Thursday.

Abbott said that since the cheerleaders create the banners without school funding, they qualify as free speech and should not be banned. [I suspect that normal people can't bring their own privately made banners and cheer with the cheerleaders]

"This is student-led expression, and that's perfectly constitutional," Abbott said. "We will not allow atheist groups from outside the state of Texas to come into the state to use menacing and misleading and intimidating tactics to try to bully schools to bow down to the alter of secular beliefs."

Joining Abbott at a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry said he supported the cheerleaders and denounced the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

"Anyone who is expressing their faith should be celebrated, from my perspective, in this day and age of instant gratification, this me-first culture that we see all too often," Perry said. "We're a nation built on the concept of free expression of ideas. We're also a culture built on the concept that the original law is God's law, outlined in the Ten Commandments."

The case began when the foundation wrote to the school district, threatening a lawsuit. The group is dedicated to the separation of church and state and believes that religion hinders social progress.

"The speech in question is government speech or, at a minimum, school-sponsored speech," the group said in court papers. "If the majority of the cheerleaders were atheists, would a court support their 'right' to hold up a banner insulting Christianity or all believers? The district has every right to simply prohibit all run-through and on-field banners."

The group said that because of the context of a football game, it is not clear that the religious views are those of the cheerleaders, and not the school district.

Dozens of states make it hard to get abortions


Dozens of states make it hard to get abortions

October 20, 2012 12:27 pm • Associated Press

It's legal to get an abortion in America, but in many places it is hard and getting harder.

Just this year, 17 states set new limits on abortion; 24 did last year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights nonprofit whose numbers are widely respected. In several states with the most restrictive laws, the number of abortions has fallen slightly, pleasing abortion opponents who say the laws are working.

Some of the states with the toughest laws are spread across a big middle swath of the country, stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

In South Dakota, which has just one abortion clinic, lawmakers want to extend the required waiting period from two days to three for women seeking to end a pregnancy. Next door in North Dakota, there's only one clinic. The same is true in Mississippi, where a new law threatens that lone clinic's existence. In several states, doctors now must warn women about purported risks from abortion that most scientists reject.

There are hurdles even in states like Illinois, where abortion laws are more lenient and clinics relatively plentiful.

Patients arriving for abortions at a Granite City, Ill., clinic can expect to find their photographs on an anti-abortion activist's website. And before her abortion in June, a Chicago woman says her own gynecologist refused to offer any advice, fearing that just mentioning abortion could endanger her job at a Catholic hospital.

"The level and scope of activity on abortion and family planning is completely unparalleled to anything we have seen before," said Elizabeth Nash, Guttmacher's states issues manager.

"The way people are attacking abortion is distressing because they are getting much more creative the way they're chipping away" at it, said Dr. Renee Mestad, an OB-GYN who provides abortions in upstate New York. Access to abortion isn't much of a problem there. But it was where she used to work in Missouri.

"The ideal thing would be that no one gets pregnant unless they're ready _ that all pregnancies are desired pregnancies, but that's not what happens," Mestad said.

While surveys have consistently shown most Americans support keeping abortion legal in certain circumstances, many people's views are nuanced. A Gallup poll last month found nearly as many voters consider themselves "pro-life" as those who say they are "pro-choice."

And a new Gallup poll released Wednesday found that nearly 40 percent of female registered voters surveyed in 12 swing states consider abortion the most important election issue for women _ even outranking jobs.

President Barack Obama supports access to abortion. GOP challenger Mitt Romney says Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court's nearly 40-year-old decision legalizing abortion, should be overturned, which would allow states to ban abortion.

Anti-abortion attorney Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, says her ideal would be "to live in a country where abortion is not even really thinkable." She'd like to see Roe vs. Wade overturned, but even if it is, she said, the debate won't end because it would be up to states to ban abortion.

Some seem to be moving in that direction.

_More than 30 new abortion laws have been enacted this year, a record topped only by the unprecedented 92 laws last year.

_Most states _ 41 _ ban abortion after a certain stage of pregnancy, generally around 20 weeks, unless the mother's life or health is in danger. In many of those states, the bans are based on a challenged premise that fetuses that early can feel pain.

_Pre-abortion counseling is required in 35 states; 26 require waiting periods after counseling, and in 13 states, the counseling must warn women about alleged risks from abortion.

States within the nation's most restrictive region, the midsection, include North and South Dakota, which each have only one abortion clinic and have seen the number of abortions drop slightly since 2008.

And they include Texas, which has the most prescriptive counseling laws _ requiring, among other things, that doctors tell women abortion is linked with breast cancer. A group of scientists convened by the National Cancer Institute in 2003 concluded abortion did not raise the risk of breast cancer.

A Texas law passed last year requires women to get an ultrasound and their doctors to describe the fetus. Texas abortions also have dropped every year since 2008.

Next door, in Oklahoma, state authorities are fighting court action blocking a law with similar requirements. Collett, the anti-abortion attorney, has helped Oklahoma defend the 2010 law. She says it might lead some women to change their minds.

While records from several states with restrictive laws show fewer abortions in recent years, whether there has been a true decline is uncertain. Not all states track the rate _ the number of abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Pregnancies are down, too, in many states, a development some experts link to a weak economy. The most recent national abortion statistics are from 2008. The trend shows the number and rate of abortions have generally leveled off after a long period of decline.

In South Dakota, a new law facing a legal challenge would impose a three-day waiting period. During that time, a woman would have to visit a crisis pregnancy center discouraging abortion. Utah is the only other state with a waiting period that long, but it doesn't require such specific counseling.

In July, a federal appeals court in South Dakota upheld a 2005 law requiring doctors to warn that abortions increase risks for suicide. Scientific research disputes this.

Dr. Carol Ball, at the state's lone abortion clinic, in Sioux Falls, says information she's required to tell patients is "of questionable validity" and designed to make them feel shame and guilt.

"They're throwing hurdles in front of us to see when we stop jumping in front of them. If I stop, it means they win and women of South Dakota lose, and I'm not willing to let that happen," Ball said.

Across the state to the west in Rapid City, Dr. Marvin Buehner cares for women with high-risk pregnancies and does a few abortions each year when pregnancy endangers the patient's life.

He's required to describe each fetal stage and explain that abortion ends the life of a separate human being _ even to women whose fetuses have deadly abnormalities and won't survive.

"It's just incredible," Buehner said.

One of his patients is a 31-year-old woman who gave birth Oct. 14 to a stillborn baby with a rare, inherited and ultimately fatal condition called achondrogenesis, which causes severe deformities. She had two previous babies with the same condition. One was also stillborn, the other died an hour after birth.

She had considered abortion when tests showed this baby, too, was doomed, but couldn't afford the cost. It would have involved traveling nearly six hours to the Sioux Falls clinic. And because her life wasn't at risk, Medicaid in her state wouldn't pay for it, even though it was clear her baby would be born dead or die shortly after birth.

In Illinois, laws are relatively lenient. The Hope Clinic in Granite City in Southern Illinois caters to women from neighboring states like Missouri and Kentucky where it's harder to get an abortion.

Tamara Threlkeld, the clinic's executive director, said despite increasingly difficult access, Hope Clinic has not seen any increase in patients with later-term pregnancies seeking abortions.

Though you'd expect to see that trend, "they're able to find us" early on, she said.

Most abortions occur in the first 12 weeks when the embryo is about the size of a lima bean. Major organs have begun developing, but the embryo at this stage looks nothing like the photographs of mangled fetuses that abortion foes promote. Those pictures generally represent late-term abortions, those after five months, which account for less than 2 percent of abortions.

Women who visit Hope Clinic can expect to find Angela Michael. She is a long-shot Democratic candidate seeking to unseat longtime GOP Congressman John Shimkus in Illinois' 15th district.

Michael is a retired obstetrics nurse who has run TV commercials showing graphic images of dismembered fetuses. She regularly pickets outside the clinic, encouraging patients to change their minds. She also photographs them and posts their pictures on her website.

She said she has compassion for these women, but considers abortion murder.

The photographs she promotes may not depict typical abortions, but Michael says they sometimes work to persuade women to continue their pregnancies.

"I really didn't go into this race with the hopes of winning. My point was to be the messenger" against abortion, she said.

Some Hope Clinic patients come from Kentucky, where the number of abortions has steadily dropped from almost 4,400 in 2007 to roughly 3,900 in 2010.

Kentucky's only two abortion clinics are in Louisville and Lexington, an hour apart and several hours from some of the state's most impoverished counties. Kentucky requires a 24-hour waiting period, and five of the seven surrounding states also have waiting periods. Public funding of abortions in Kentucky is limited to cases of rape, incest or when pregnancy endangers a woman's life.

Mississippi has similar restrictions and only one abortion clinic, in Jackson, threatened with closure because of a new law requiring providers to have local hospital admitting privileges. State Health Department data show Mississippi abortions have steadily dropped, from nearly 3,000 in 2007 to about 2,200 in 2011. Meanwhile, the number of Mississippi residents seeking abortions out of state grew from fewer than 2,000 a decade ago to at least 3,000 in more recent years, according to data from the state Department of Health.

"Never have times been this restrictive," said Dr. Willie Parker, a Washington, D.C.-based physician who since June has traveled periodically to Mississippi to provide abortions.

Parker said he's often struck by the hardship many women face, and told of a 33-year-old mother of four who lost a child to cancer two years ago. She was unemployed and still grieving when she learned she was pregnant again. The woman traveled three hours to the Jackson clinic to get required counseling in June. Then she had to return the next week for the abortion.

"She told me she couldn't afford to have another child financially or emotionally," Parker said.

He said he doesn't know whether she was using birth control; he doesn't usually ask.

"All I need is to make sure that they're certain" about abortion. Most "have already been thinking about this decision for weeks on end," he said.


CDC abortion data: http://1.usa.gov/7drlmU

Guttmacher Institute: http://www.guttmacher.org

Were some issues missing from these debates?

Some choice for President - Obamney or Rombama - forget Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. In this editorial Vin points out that the Presidential debates are rigged to exclude third parties like Gary Johnson from the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein from the Green Party.

Hey, we all know that either Obamney or Rombama is going to win the election, so what hard could there be in letting the Libertarians and Greens into the debate. It would give us some new interesting ideas.

Like legalizing drugs, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and repealing the unconstitutional Patriot Act.

N.Y. police informant: Paid for ‘baiting’ Muslims

From this article is sounds like the cops are tricking people into committing crimes so they can arrest them.

Maybe a good way to reduce crime would be to fire all the cops who are tricking people into committing crimes. That would certainly reduce the crime rate.

And of course I suspect the FBI and Homeland Security is doing the same stuff at the Federal level. I have posted a number of article where the FBI has created bomb plots and then arrested people the tricked into participating in the fake bomb plots.


N.Y. police informant: Paid for ‘baiting’ Muslims

By Matt Apuzzo Associated Press Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:28 AM

NEW YORK — A paid informant for the New York Police Department’s intelligence unit was under orders to “bait” Muslims into saying bad things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press.

Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen of Bengali descent who has now denounced his work as an informant, said police told him to embrace a strategy called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating a conversation about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the response to send to the NYPD. For his work, he earned as much as $1,000 a month and goodwill from the police after a string of minor marijuana arrests.

“We need you to pretend to be one of them,” Rahman recalled the police telling him. “It’s street theater.”

Rahman, who said he plans to move to the Caribbean, said he now believes his work as an informant against Muslims in New York was “detrimental to the Constitution.” After he disclosed to friends details about his work for the police — and after he told the police that he had been interviewed by the AP — he stopped receiving text messages from his NYPD handler, “Steve,” and his handler’s NYPD phone number was disconnected.

Rahman’s account shows how the NYPD unleashed informants on Muslim neighborhoods, often without specific targets or criminal leads. Much of what Rahman said represents a tactic the NYPD has denied using.

The AP corroborated Rahman’s account through arrest records and weeks of text messages between Rahman and his police handler. The AP also reviewed the photos Rahman sent to police. Friends confirmed Rahman was at certain events when he said he was there, and former NYPD officials, while not personally familiar with Rahman, said the tactics he described were used by informants.

Informants like Rahman are a central component of the NYPD’s wide-ranging programs to monitor life in Muslim neighborhoods since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Police officers have eavesdropped inside Muslim businesses, trained video cameras on mosques and collected license plates of worshippers. Informants who trawl the mosques — known informally as “mosque crawlers” — tell police what the imam says at sermons and provide police lists of attendees, even when there’s no evidence they committed a crime.

The programs were built with unprecedented help from the CIA.

Police recruited Rahman in late January, after his third arrest on misdemeanor drug charges, which Rahman believed would lead to serious legal consequences. An NYPD plainclothes officer approached him in jail and asked whether he wanted to turn his life around.

The next month, Rahman said, he was on the NYPD’s payroll.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday. He has denied widespread NYPD spying, saying police only follow leads.

In an Oct. 15 interview with the AP, however, Rahman said he received little training and spied on “everything and anyone.” He took pictures inside the many mosques he visited and eavesdropped on imams. By his own measure, he said he was very good at his job and his handler never once told him he was collecting too much, no matter whom he was spying on.

Rahman said he thought he was doing important work protecting New York City and considered himself a hero.

One of his earliest assignments was to spy on a lecture at the Muslim Student Association at John Jay College in Manhattan. The speaker was Ali Abdul Karim, the head of security at the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn. The NYPD had been concerned about Karim for years and already had infiltrated the mosque, according to NYPD documents obtained by the AP.

Rahman also was instructed to monitor the student group itself, though he wasn’t told to target anyone specifically. His NYPD handler told him to take pictures of people at the events, determine who belonged to the student association and identify its leadership.

On Feb. 23, Rahman attended the event with Karim and listened, ready to catch what he called a “speaker’s gaffe.” The NYPD was interested in buzz words such as “jihad” and “revolution,” he said. Any radical rhetoric, the NYPD told him, needed to be reported.

Talha Shahbaz, then the vice president of the student group, met Rahman at the event. As Karim was finishing his talk on Malcolm X’s legacy, Rahman told Shahbaz that he wanted to know more about the student group. They had briefly attended the same high school.

Rahman said he wanted to turn his life around and stop using drugs, and said he believed Islam could provide a purpose in life. In the following days, Rahman friended him on Facebook and the two exchanged phone numbers. Shahbaz, a Pakistani who came to the U.S. more three years ago, introduced Rahman to other Muslims.

“He was telling us how he loved Islam and it’s changing him,” said Asad Dandia, who also became friends with Rahman.

Secretly, Rahman was mining his new friends for details about their lives, taking pictures of them when they ate at restaurants and writing down license plates on the orders of the NYPD.

On the NYPD’s instructions, he went to more events at John Jay, including when Siraj Wahhaj spoke in May. Wahhaj, 62, is a prominent but controversial New York imam who has attracted the attention of authorities for years. Prosecutors included his name on a list of people they said “may be alleged as co-conspirators” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, though he was never charged. In 2004, the NYPD placed Wahhaj on an internal terrorism watch list and noted: “Political ideology moderately radical and anti-American.”

That evening at John Jay, a friend took a photograph of Wahhaj with a grinning Rahman.

Rahman said he kept an eye on the MSA and used Shahbaz and his friends to facilitate traveling to events organized by the Islamic Circle of North America and Muslim American Society. The society’s annual convention in Connecticut draws a large number of Muslims and plenty of attention from the NYPD. According to NYPD documents obtained by the AP, the NYPD sent three informants there in 2008 and was keeping an eye on the group’s former president.

Rahman was told to spy on the speakers and collect information. The conference was called “Defending Religious Freedom.” Shahbaz paid Rahman’s travel expenses.

Rahman said he never witnessed any criminal activity or saw anybody do anything wrong.

He said he sometimes intentionally misinterpreted what people had said. For example, Rahman said he would ask people what they thought about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, knowing the subject was inflammatory. It was easy to take statements out of context, he said. He said wanted to please his NYPD handler, whom he trusted and liked.

“I was trying to get money,” Rahman said. “I was playing the game.”

Rahman said police never discussed the activities of the people he was assigned to target for spying. He said police told him once, “We don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. We just need to be sure.”

On some days, Rahman spent hours and covered miles in his undercover role. On Sept. 16, for example, he made his way in the morning to the Al Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn, snapping photographs of an imam and the sign-up sheet for those attending a regular class on Islamic instruction. He also provided their cell phone numbers to the NYPD. That evening he spied on people at Masjid Al-Ansar, also in Brooklyn.

Text messages on his phone showed that Rahman also took pictures last month of people attending the 27th annual Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan. The parade’s grand marshal was New York City Councilman Robert Jackson.

Rahman said he eventually tired of spying on his friends, noting that at times they delivered food to needy Muslim families. He said he once identified another NYPD informant spying on him. He took $200 more from the NYPD and told them he was done as an informant. He said the NYPD offered him more money, which he declined. He told friends on Facebook in early October that he had been a police spy but had quit. He also traded Facebook messages with Shahbaz, admitting he had spied on students at John Jay.

“I was an informant for the NYPD, for a little while, to investigate terrorism,” he wrote on Oct. 2. He said he no longer thought it was right. Perhaps he had been hunting terrorists, he said, “but I doubt it.”

“I hated that I was using people to make money,” Rahman said. “I made a mistake.”

Rape - It's part of Gods plan???

Hey, please don't blame me for what these Christian nut jobs say. I just post the articles.


Indiana GOP Senate candidate stands by rape comment

Associated Press

11:10 a.m. CDT, October 24, 2012

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock is standing by his statement that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape "that's something God intended." He says some people have twisted his comment.

Mourdock said in a news conference Wednesday that he abhors any sexual violence and regrets it if his comment during a debate Tuesday night left another impression.

Mourdock, who's been locked in one of the country's most expensive and closely watched Senate races, was asked during the final minutes of the debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," Mourdock said.

Mourdock became the second GOP Senate candidate to find himself on the defensive over comments about rape and pregnancy. Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said in August that women's bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape." Since his comment, Akin has repeatedly apologized but has refused to leave his race despite calls to do so by leaders of his own party, from GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on down.

It was not immediately clear what effect Mourdock's comments might have during the final two weeks in the increasingly tight race against Democratic challenger Rep. Joe Donnelly. But they could prove problematic. Romney distanced himself from Mourdock on Tuesday night — a day after a television ad featuring the former Massachusetts governor supporting the GOP Senate candidate began airing in Indiana.

"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email to The Associated Press. Romney aides would not say whether the ad would be pulled and if the Republican presidential nominee would continue to support Mourdock's Senate bid.

National Democrats quickly picked up on Mourdock's statement and used it as an opportunity to paint him as an extreme candidate, calling him a tea party "zealot." DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz described Mourdock's comments as "outrageous and demeaning to women" and called on Romney to take his pro-Mourdock ad off the air.

Mourdock further explained Tuesday night after the debate that he did not believe God intended the rape, but that God is the only one who can create life.

"Are you trying to suggest somehow that God preordained rape, no I don't think that," Mourdock said. "Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that's not even close to what I said."

In response, Donnelly said after the debate in southern Indiana that he doesn't believe "my God, or any God, would intend that to happen."

Mourdock, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress three times before becoming state treasurer, became one of the tea party's biggest winners of the 2012 primary season when he knocked off veteran Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in a brutal campaign. Initially, national Republicans stayed out of the Indiana race because the race had appeared to be a likely win for the GOP.

But as the race grew tighter in recent months, Mourdock changed his tune and started trying to woo moderate voters. At the same time, top Republicans began stumping for Mourdock around the state in a push to break open the high-stakes Senate race. Republicans need to gain three seats, or four if President Barack Obama wins re-election, and seats that were predicted to remain or turn Republican have grown uncertain.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came to Indianapolis for a fundraiser Monday, and Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham campaigned for Mourdock last week. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte is due in the state Wednesday.

Romney's coattails carry special significance in conservative Indiana, where Mourdock has underperformed Romney by 12 points in most public polls. Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS also has bought another $1 million of airtime in Indiana, making his group the biggest player in Indiana's Senate race. A message left for Crossroads GPS spokesman Nate Hodson was not immediately returned.

Donnelly, a moderate Democrat who opposes abortions, has spent much of his campaign highlighting Mourdock's tea party ties and trying to accuse him of being too extreme even for conservative Indiana. Democratic groups have bought another $1.6 million of airtime for Donnelly ads this week.

Egypt weighs whether religion should be law


Egypt weighs whether religion should be law

By Aya Batrawy Associated Press Tue Oct 30, 2012 11:14 PM

MECCA, Saudi Arabia -- The annual Muslim hajj comes at a time when several Arab nations are facing a similar issue on a political level after uprisings that toppled longtime leaders and brought Islamists to greater power: How much should a government be rooted in Islam?

Egypt in particular is struggling with that question.

Elections since the fall last year of Hosni Mubarak elevated Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, to president. The Brotherhood was vaulted to become the country’s strongest political force, along with even more conservative Islamists known as Salafis, who follow a strict Saudi-style interpretation of Islam.

As pilgrims were making their way around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure in Mecca that observant Muslims pray toward five times a day, and performing an elaborate set of rituals in Saudi Arabia over the past week, Egypt was in a bitter struggle over the writing of the new constitution.

Salafis are pressing for the document to explicitly root Egypt’s laws in Shariah. That has raised liberals’ fears that it will bring stricter implementation of Islamic law and empower Muslim clerics in a political role, limiting women’s rights and freedoms of worship and expression. The assembly writing the constitution is dominated by the Brotherhood and Salafis.

The Egyptians who performed the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites this year may be united in the importance they give to their faith in their lives. But it doesn’t mean they all agree on the mix of religion and politics.

Phoenix Diocese mixes government and religion to spread their anti-gay hate!!!


Phoenix Diocese gives to Wis. anti-gay initiative

By Lorri Allen Cronkite News Service Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:58 PM

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix donated $1,000 to a group leading efforts to pass a ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

The contribution to the Minnesota Catholic Conference Marriage Defense Fund drew criticism from the Human Rights Campaign, a national group devoted to achieving equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The HRC recorded about $30,000 from dioceses beyond Minnesota to the effort, along with $150,000 from dioceses within that state.

“Our report highlights a huge gulf between people in the pew and the leadership,” said Dan Rafter, the group’s online-campaigns manager. “The Catholic Church teaches dignity, compassion and love, so there’s a huge disconnect with mainstream churchgoers.”

Donations by churches don’t jeopardize their non-profit status in this case because it’s a ballot measure, not political activity, Rafter said.

The Phoenix donation came from the bishop’s discretionary funds, according to Robert DeFrancesco, director of communications for the diocese. He said no donations have been made to the three other states considering same-sex-marriage measures next month.

Ron Johnson, executive director for the Arizona Catholic Conference, said the donation makes a statement supporting the church’s position on marriage being between a man and a woman.

“Nationally, the U.S. Catholic bishops have made marriage a top priority in recent years, given all the attacks on the traditional definition we’ve had for 2,000 years,” Johnson said. “Consistent with the worldwide priority on marriage, the diocese is helping out its sister dioceses in Minnesota because we know how important that is and have dealt with it in our state, as well.”

Arizona voters approved a similar amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in 2008.

After visiting St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix, Sally Rodriquez, a Catholic from Yuma, said she had no problem with the donation.

“My position on the issue of gay marriage is that it’s wrong in the eyes of God. It’s wrong in the Catholic Church’s teaching,” she said.

However, Rodriquez questioned sending money out of state to help a political campaign when there are needy people in this community.

“The Catholic Church donating money to a political cause seems odd,” she said. “The money should be used to do the work of God.”

Supporting causes is a growing trend in conservative circles, said Karen Seat, director of the University of Arizona’s Religious Studies Program.

“I think more and more religious organizations are becoming politicized on issues like family, sexuality and so on,” Seat said. “Catholics have been very vocal this year about birth control, for instance.”

Rafter cited a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., that said 59 percent of Catholics surveyed favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

“That’s why the hierarchy’s positions are so jarring,” Rafter said.

But Johnson, with the Arizona Catholic Conference, said polling during the 2008 Arizona campaign indicated 80 percent of Catholics voted for traditional marriage.

“Marriage is a personal relationship with enormous public significance. That’s why the government and society, for the common good, should be concerned with preserving the traditional definition of marriage,” he said. “It’s what’s best for children, having a mom and a dad, ideally.”

Michigan pastor killed a woman in sex fantasy


Man killed woman in sex fantasy, police say

Associated Press Fri Nov 2, 2012 10:57 AM

BROOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. —A central Michigan pastor accused of beating and strangling a neighbor to fulfill a sexual fantasy was engaged to the victim’s mother and had asked church members to pray for the young woman before police found her body, a friend said Friday.

Ex-convict John D. White told investigators that after killing 24-year-old Rebekah Gay in her trailer in rural Isabella County early Wednesday, he hid her body in nearby woods then returned to the trailer to dress her 3-year-old son in a Halloween costume, ready for the boy’s father to pick him up.

White told investigators he repeatedly struck Gay’s head with a mallet then strangled her with a zip tie, according to the Isabella County sheriff’s office. He said he stripped her but does not remember if he carried out his fantasy of having sex with Gay’s dead body.

“We are all absolutely floored,” said Donna Houghton, 76, who had a role in hiring White to be pastor at the 14-member Christ Community Fellowship three years ago. She said she protested his innocence until she heard he had confessed.

“Then he had no leg to stand on,” she told The Associated Press.

White led investigators to Gay’s body in a wooded area a half-mile away from the trailer park and later Wednesday was charged with first-degree murder. He remained jailed without bond on Friday.

Gay and White lived in the same trailer park in Broomfield Township, 85 miles northwest of Lansing, and White was engaged to Gay’s mother who was a regular at his Sunday sermons, Houghton said. She said the pastor often watched Gay’s son while she was at work.

White “really liked this young man,” Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said.

Houghton said that before White was arrested he had called her to ask that she contact other church members and start a prayer chain for Gay, who was still missing at the time.

“He was pretty shook up. He said the police were giving him a hard time,” Houghton said.

She said the tiny congregation was aware of White’s criminal past when he joined the church. He was released from prison in 2007 after serving nearly 12 years for manslaughter in the death of a 26-year-old woman in Kalamazoo County, according to the state Corrections Department.

White also was sentenced to probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old Battle Creek girl in 1981.

“He was absolutely contrite,” Houghton said. “All kinds of people turn around and meet the Lord and they are a different person. He was doing a lot of good in the community. … He was doing a lot of good and Satan did not want him doing good, and Satan got to him.”

Bill Montgomery wants to flush a woman's right to have an abortion down the toilet???


County attorney wants 9th Circuit to approve Arizona banning abortions after 19th week

Posted: Sunday, November 4, 2012 11:00 am

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services | 2 comments

SAN FRANCISCO -- Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery goes to federal court Monday seeking approval for Arizona to start banning virtually all abortions after the 19th week of pregnancy.

Montgomery wants the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to dissolve the order it issued in August blocking the state from enforcing the law. He contends the statute, approved by the Legislature earlier this year, is within the power of the state to regulate the procedure.

But Monday's hearing is likely to be little more than a warm-up for the issue winding up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's because Janet Creps of the Center for Reproductive Rights said the Arizona law is a direct challenge to prior high court rulings making abortion legal.

For Montgomery to win his case, Creps said he will have to convince the 9th Circuit to disregard those rulings, something it cannot do. So the only way to uphold the law is have the nation's top justices revisit -- and potentially modify or overturn entirely those prior cases, going all the way back to the landmark 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade.

Montgomery, for his part, thinks he's found a defense for the Arizona law that won't require overturning Roe: a more recent Supreme Court ruling allowing states to ban partial-birth abortions.

But even he conceded that the case is likely to wind up being decided not here but in Washington.

Roe v. Wade and its legal progeny essentially have said that states may not ban abortions outright prior to viability, the point at which a fetus can live outside the womb. Current medical science puts that somewhere between 22 and 24 weeks.

The justices, however, have allowed states to enact "reasonable regulations'' on those procedures. Montgomery says this law fits that exception.

The Arizona law makes it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion beyond the 19th week unless necessary to prevent a woman's death or "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.'' That provision, Montgomery argues, is what makes it legal.

"We don't have a ban,'' he said.

"If there is a medical emergency, then a woman does have access to abortion services,'' Montgomery explained. "I would say that we are regulating the abortion procedure.''

Creps said that's torturing the definition of "regulation.'' She said the fact that some women might be able to get an abortion legally at 20 weeks and beyond does not alter the fact that others who are not in an emergency situation will not.

"When you make something illegal, subject to criminal penalties, such that a woman who wants an abortion before viability but after 20 weeks can't get it because it's illegal for her physician to perform that procedure, that's a ban,'' Creps said. "And that's what the Supreme Court was talking about when it said you can't take away from a woman the ultimate right to make a decision prior to viability.''

Montgomery, however, is relying on that 2007 Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on partial-birth abortions, whether performed before or after viability.

"There are distinct interests that the state can assert in regulating abortions,'' he said of that ruling. Montgomery said the Arizona law fits that exception.

"We're looking at regulations that take into account the health and welfare of the mother,'' he said, citing studies that show abortions at 20 weeks and beyond are more dangerous than earlier procedures. And Montgomery said the state has an "interest in potential life, further illuminated by the latest in neonatal science that now makes us aware of the ability of the unborn child to feel pain.''

But Creps said that 2007 ruling simply banned one type of abortion procedure -- where a fetus is partially delivered first -- to terminate a pregnancy. She said nothing in that ruling allowed a state to ban all other procedures used prior to viability.

That gets back to whether this case will ultimately become the chance for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

Montgomery agreed that the high court, in ruling against partial-birth abortions, was trying not to overturn its earlier rulings "where the only predominant interest was the woman's right to choose an abortion.'' He said, though, that decision gave the first inklings that the justices now believe that other factors need to be taken into account, including the health and welfare of the mother, even if they do intrude on the right of a woman under Roe v. Wade to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability.

This case, he said, could ultimately give the high court a chance to consider "how anachronistic Roe has become in light of advances in medical and neonatal science.''

Creps said she also is aware of the possibility this case could become the vehicle for the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade. And she noted this is a very different bench than the one that first ruled on the issue in 1973.

But Creps said even if this case gets to the high court, she does not envision them using it to overturn nearly 40 years of rulings. If nothing else, she said, the justices give strong consideration to stare decisis, the principle that courts abide by prior rulings.

"I think the justices are going to be very reluctant to go back and say, 'No, we're now going to completely undermine that rule,' '' she said.

"I think and hope that they would see that that would really undermine the credibility of the court,'' Creps continued. "And it would be seen as influenced by politics where it should be determined based on stare decisis and the recognition of women's individual right,'' she said.

Montgomery does have some basis for believing he can convince the appellate court to see the law as regulatory versus an outright ban.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge James Teilborg said the law "does not impose a substantial obstacle to previability abortions.'' He said it was instead a narrow limit, between 20 weeks and the point of viability.

And Teilborg accepted Montgomery's arguments that the law is justified to protect maternal health and prevent a fetus from feeling pain while being aborted.

The case is slated to be heard sometime after 9:30 on Monday before Judges Marsha Berzon, Mary Schroeder and Andrew Kleinfeld.

IRS not enforcing rules on churches, politics

I suspect these silly laws that make it illegal for religious groups to give money to people running for office are unconstitutional and violate the free speech part of the 1st Amendment.

But according to this article the IRS is not enforcing the laws. I suspect the IRS will selectively enforce the laws if a Christian cult or Muslim group our government masters don't like breaks the laws.

Of course it is also illegal for our government masters to accept bribes, opps, I mean campaign contributions, from these religious groups and in turn pass laws benefiting them.


IRS not enforcing rules on churches, politics

By Rachel Zoll Associated Press Sat Nov 3, 2012 11:05 AM

NEW YORK — For the past three years, the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t been investigating complaints of partisan political activity by churches, leaving religious groups who make direct or thinly veiled endorsements of political candidates unchallenged.

The IRS monitors religious and other nonprofits on everything from salaries to spending, and that oversight continues. However, Russell Renwicks, a manager in the IRS Mid-Atlantic region, recently said the agency had suspended audits of churches suspected of breaching federal restrictions on political activity. A 2009 federal court ruling required the IRS to clarify which high-ranking official could authorize audits over the tax code’s political rules. The IRS has yet to do so.

Dean Patterson, an IRS spokesman in Washington, said Renwicks, who examines large tax-exempt groups, “misspoke.” Patterson would not provide any specifics beyond saying that “the IRS continues to run a balanced program that follows up on potential noncompliance.”

However, attorneys who specialize in tax law for religious groups, as well as advocacy groups who monitor the cases, say they know of no IRS inquiries in the past three years into claims of partisanship by houses of worship. IRS church audits are confidential, but usually become public as the targeted religious groups fight to maintain their nonprofit status.

“The impression created is that no one is minding the store,” said Melissa Rogers, a legal scholar and director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School in North Carolina. “When there’s an impression the IRS is not enforcing the restriction — that seems to embolden some to cross the line.”

The issue is closely watched by a cadre of attorneys and former IRS officials who specialize in tax-exempt law, along with watchdog groups on competing sides of the church-state debate.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which seeks strict limits on religious involvement in politics, and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which considers the regulations unconstitutional government intrusion, scour the political landscape for any potential cases. While Americans United gathers evidence it hopes will prompt an IRS investigation, the Alliance Defending Freedom jumps in to provide a defense. Neither group knows of any IRS contact with houses of worship over political activity since the 2009 federal ruling.

Nicholas Cafardi, a Duquesne University Law School professor and Roman Catholic canon lawyer who specializes in tax-exempt law, said he has heard of no IRS inquiries over churches and politics in the last three years. Neither has Marcus Owens, a Washington attorney who spent a decade as head of the IRS tax-exempt division and is now in private practice.

Owens, who was with the IRS through 2000, said the agency had once initiated between 20 and 30 inquiries each year concerning political activity by churches or pastors. He said he knows of only two recent cases the IRS pursued against houses of worship or pastors, and neither involved complaints over partisan activity.

“What the IRS is desperate to do is to avoid signaling to churches and pastors that there is no administrative oversight,” Owens said. “The IRS has been vigilant with regard to civil fraud and criminal cases, but those aren’t all that common.”

The tax code allows a wide range of political activity by houses of worship, including speaking out on social issues and organizing congregants to vote. But churches cannot endorse a candidate or engage in partisan advocacy. The presidential election has seen a series of statements by clergy that critics say amount to political endorsements. Religious leaders say they are speaking about public policies, not candidates, and have every right to do so.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has recently taken out full-page ads in major newspapers, featuring a photo of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, urging Americans to vote along biblical principles. Graham met last month with Mitt Romney and pledged to do “all I can” to help the Republican presidential nominee.

In a survey last week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 40 percent of black Protestants who attend worship services regularly said their clergy have discussed a specific candidate in church — and the candidate in every instance was President Barack Obama.

This Sunday, Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill., ordered all the priests in his diocese to read a statement urging Catholics to vote and stating that, “Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord.”

In Texas, a pastor of a small independent church posted a sign on the front of the building that read, “Vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim.” Romney is the first Mormon nominee for president by a major party. Opponents of Obama, who is Christian, have spread false rumors that he is Muslim.

Renwicks made his comments Oct. 18, at a Washington seminar on tax-exempt organizations presented by the American Law Institute-Continuing Legal Education. Responding to a moderator’s question about the status of church audits, Renwicks said, “we’re basically holding any potential church audits — they’re basically in abeyance.

“I haven’t done a church audit in quite some time,” said Renwicks, according to a recording of the talk provided by the American Law Institute. “There were one or two — what I’d call somewhat, maybe potentially egregious cases — where I thought maybe, we need to go out there, but even those were put in abeyance until we get the signature issue resolved.”

An IRS reorganization in 1998 put responsibility for authorizing the audits in the hands of lower-ranking IRS officials. A Minnesota pastor, who faced an audit over his 2007 endorsement from the pulpit of Rep. Michele Bachmann, argued the IRS was violating its own rules. In 2009, a federal judge agreed, prompting a formal IRS rule-making process that continues today.

Dean Zerbe, a former senior counsel to the Senate Finance Committee who specializes in tax fraud and abuse, said the audits are “an extremely hellish area for the IRS to deal with.”

The agency has to balance enforcement with churches’ First Amendment rights. Even when the federal agency finds an outright violation, the penalty for houses of worship is usually little more than a warning. The IRS has revoked nonprofit status in just a handful of these cases since the rules for religious groups were adopted in 1954.

Last month, more than 1,500 pastors, organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, endorsed a candidate from the pulpit and then sent a record of their statement to the IRS, hoping their challenge would eventually end up in court. The Alliance has organized the event, called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” since 2008. The IRS has never contacted a pastor involved in the protest.

“I think people are misled to think the IRS wakes up every morning wanting to knock on the door of a church or synagogue,” said Zerbe. “Most senators blanch at the idea of having an IRS agent in the pews listening to what’s going on from the pulpit. … I think the IRS in some ways reflects that similar discomfort.”

Secular Coalition for American selects Gary Johnson as best choice for President

In this questionnaire given to the Presidential candidates about their beliefs on separation of religion and government Libertarian Gary Johnson came out at the top of the list.

In this comparison of Presidential candidates by the Secular Coalition for American, Libertarian Gary Johnson came in first with a B, followed by President Obama who got a C and Romney came in last with an F.

Jill Stein who is the Green Party candidate didn't get a grade because they were not able to identify her position on separation of church and state based on the answers she gave.

It's too bad the NRA and other gun groups don't include the Libertarian candidates in their surveys. Libertarians who believe in the Libertarian Party's NIFF party positions would always beat or tie Democrats and Republicans.

Here is the survey.

Egyptian Islamists rally for Shariah law


Egyptian Islamists rally for Shariah law

By Aya Batrawy Associated Press Fri Nov 9, 2012 9:03 PM

CAIRO -- More than 10,000 ultraconservative Muslims demonstrated Friday in downtown Cairo to demand that Egypt’s new constitution be based on the rulings of Islamic religious law, or Shariah.

The writing of the constitution has been fraught with controversy since last year’s uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak and ushered the formerly repressed Islamists to power. But Islamists themselves are not in agreement over the interpretation of Shariah and its place in the document.

Demonstrators in Tahrir Square, many bused in from outside Cairo, demanded the panel tasked with writing the constitution override liberal and secular objections. The panel is led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the powerful Islamist group from which President Mohammed Morsi hails.

Second amendment

The controversy is centered on the wording of the second amendment. The former constitution stated that the “principles of Islamic Shariah” are the basis of legislation. This wording is favored by liberals because they say it meets the broad ideas of Islam.

Ultraconservatives, though, want the wording changed to state that the basis of law will be “the rulings of Shariah,” implying Egypt’s laws may be left to the interpretation of religious scholars.

Seeking to mollify ultraconservatives who accuse the Brotherhood of not advocating strongly enough for Islamic rule, the constitutional panel is discussing adding a new article that would explain what the principles of Islamic Shariah are.

Still a draft

Ongoing controversy over the wording has thrown into question when the draft will be complete. Panel members say they plan to put the charter to a nationwide referendum before the end of the year.

Egypt’s two most powerful political parties, the Brotherhood and more conservative Salafi Nour Party, said they were not participating in Friday’s protest, although many of their supporters did.

The two groups, which hold an influential number of seats in the assembly, have said protests are premature because the constitution is still being written.

Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues


Christian Right Failed to Sway Voters on Issues


Published: November 9, 2012

Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in American politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.

“Those voters turned out, and they voted overwhelmingly against Obama,” said Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, of evangelical Christians.

“The entire moral landscape has changed,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Steve Hebert for The New York Times

“We’re not going away, we just need to recalibrate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Iowa-based Family Leader.

They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, and saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

It is not as though they did not put up a fight; they went all out as never before: The Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Roman Catholic bishops denounced President Obama’s policies as a threat to life, religious liberty and the traditional nuclear family. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before.

“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.

“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

Conservative Christian leaders said that they would intensify their efforts to make their case, but were just beginning to discuss how to proceed. “We’re not going away, we just need to recalibrate,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of The Family Leader, an evangelical organization in Iowa.

The election results are just one indication of larger trends in American religion that Christian conservatives are still digesting, political analysts say. Americans who have no religious affiliation — pollsters call them the “nones” — are now about one-fifth of the population over all, according to a study released last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The younger generation is even less religious: about one-third of Americans ages 18 to 22 say they are either atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. Americans who are secular are far more likely to vote for liberal candidates and for same-sex marriage. Seventy percent of those who said they had no religion voted for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.

“This election signaled the last where a white Christian strategy is workable,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization based in Washington.

“Barack Obama’s coalition was less than 4 in 10 white Christian,” Dr. Jones said. “He made up for that with not only overwhelming support from the African-American and Latino community, but also with the support of the religiously unaffiliated.”

In interviews, conservative Christian leaders pointed to other factors that may have blunted their impact in this election: they were outspent by gay rights advocates in the states where marriage was on the ballot; comments on rape by the Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard E. Mourdock in Indiana were ridiculed nationwide and alienated women; and they never trusted Mr. Romney as a reliably conservative voice on social issues.

However, they acknowledge that they are losing ground. The evangelical share of the population is both declining and graying, studies show. Large churches like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God, which have provided an organizing base for the Christian right, are losing members.

“In the long run, this means that the Republican constituency is going to be shrinking on the religious end as well as the ethnic end,” said James L. Guth, a professor of political science at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Meanwhile, religious liberals are gradually becoming more visible. Liberal clergy members spoke out in support of same-sex marriage, and one group ran ads praising Mr. Obama’s health care plan for insuring the poor and the sick. In a development that highlighted the diversity within the Catholic Church, the “Nuns on the Bus” drove through the Midwest warning that the budget proposed by Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, would cut the social safety net.

For the Christian right in this election, fervor and turnout were not the problem, many organizers said in interviews. White evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate — 3 percent more than in 2004, when they helped to propel President George W. Bush to re-election. During the Republican primaries, some commentators said that Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith would drive away evangelicals, many of whom consider his church a heretical cult.

And yet, in the end, evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Romney — even matching the presidential vote of Mormons: 78 percent for Mr. Romney and 21 percent for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls by Edison Research.

“We did our job,” said Mr. Reed, who helped pioneer religious voter mobilization with the Christian Coalition in the 1980s and ’90s, and is now founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He said that his organization outdid itself this year, putting out 30 million voter guides in 117,000 churches, 24 million mailings to voters in battleground states and 26 million phone calls.

“Those voters turned out, and they voted overwhelmingly against Obama,” Mr. Reed said. “But you can’t be driving in the front of the boat and leaking in the back of the boat, and win the election.

“You can’t just overperform among voters of faith,” he continued. “There’s got to be a strategy for younger voters, unmarried voters, women voters — especially single women — and minorities.”

The Christian right should have a natural inroad with Hispanics. The vast majority of Hispanics are evangelical or Catholic, and many of those are religious conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion. And yet, the pressing issue of immigration trumped religion, and Mr. Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points.

“Latino Protestants were almost as inclined to vote for Mr. Obama as their Catholic brethren were,” said Dr. Guth, at Furman, “and that’s certainly a big change, and going the wrong direction as far as Republicans are concerned.”

The election outcome was also sobering news for Catholic bishops, who this year spoke out on politics more forcefully and more explicitly than ever before, some experts said. The bishops and Catholic conservative groups helped lead the fight against same-sex marriage in the four states where that issue was on the ballot. Nationwide, they undertook a campaign that accused Mr. Obama of undermining religious liberty, redoubling their efforts when a provision in the health care overhaul required most employers to provide coverage for contraception.

Despite this, Mr. Obama retained the Catholic vote, 50 to 48 percent, according to exit polls, although his support slipped from four years ago. Also, solid majorities of Catholics supported same-sex marriage, said Dr. Jones, the pollster.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who serves on the bishops’ domestic policy committee, said that the bishops spoke out on many issues, including immigration and poverty, but got news media attention only when they talked about abortion, same-sex marriage and religious liberty. Voters who identify as Catholic but do not attend Mass on Sunday may not have been listening, he said, but Catholics who attend Mass probably “weigh what the church has to say.”

“I think good Catholics can be found across the political spectrum,” Bishop Soto said, “but I do think they wrestle with what the church teaches.”

The Pope hates gays???


Vatican digs in after gay marriage advances

Updated 10:17 a.m., Saturday, November 10, 2012

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is digging in after gay marriage initiatives scored big wins this week in Maine, two other states and Europe, vowing to never stop insisting that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

On Tuesday, Maine voters approved of same-sex marriages, as did Washington state and Maryland. With 98 percent of Maine precincts counted, the initiative won 53 percent to 47 percent. Gay marriage laws also advanced in Spain and France.

In a Saturday article in Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the Holy See sought to frame itself as the lone voice of courage in opposing initiatives to give same-sex couples legal recognition. In a separate Vatican Radio editorial, the Vatican spokesman asked sarcastically why gay marriage proponents don't now push for legal recognition for polygamous couples as well.

Gay marriage victories may signal larger shift

If you ask me marriage should be a civil contract between two or more people. I don't think the government should have any business deciding who can and who can't get married.


Gay marriage victories may signal larger shift

By Maura Dolan and Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times

November 8, 2012

Four years ago, opponents of gay marriage celebrated a winning streak, having persuaded California voters to end marriage rights for gays. If courts or legislatures bowed to the pro-marriage forces, the opposition figured it could just go to the ballot box to restore marriage bans.

But all that changed Tuesday, when gay marriage supporters succeeded in the four states where the question was on the ballot. Until then, voters had consistently opposed marriage rights, most recently in May in North Carolina.

The opposing sides differed on the significance, with Christian conservatives considering the election a blip and gay rights activists describing it as a monumental sea change. But the results emboldened activists to target other states for marriage rights and left their opponents reeling.

Gay rights activists singled out President Obama's change of heart in favor of same-sex marriage as a key ingredient in Tuesday's victories. Just four years ago, the sponsors of Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage made robocalls to California homes with a recording of Obama saying he opposed gay nuptials.

"His shift caused a lot of other politicians to feel free to change their positions as well and made it easier for African American churches to change their positions," said Jon W. Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization.

With election victories in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, gay rights activists said Wednesday that they would focus next on winning marriage rights both in the federal courts and in state legislatures, which could include states such as Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois.

"When you have momentum on your side, it's the time to double down," said Chad Griffin, who launched the legal fight against Proposition 8. "That's exactly what we've got to do: We've got to take this momentum and move forward."

Gay rights supporters spent about $32.7 million in Tuesday's races, compared with $11.3 million by Christian conservatives. Four years ago, the spending on Proposition 8 was about equal on both sides. Activists said the Mormon Church largely stayed out of the races this time, letting the Roman Catholic Church carry the burden.

Supporters of same-sex marriage also enlisted the backing of churches and the African American community, which in the past tended to oppose gay marriage.

In Maryland, where African Americans make up about 30% of the population, a black megachurch helped spur support for marriage rights. An exit poll showed that 27% of voters were African American, and half supported marriage rights, according to the Human Rights campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

Activists also changed their messaging from four years ago. Instead of asking voters for equal rights, they emphasized that gays, like heterosexuals, wanted to formalize their commitment and protect their children. Volunteers shared personal testimonials about their partners and family during nightly phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

"We turned this into a conversation about love, family and commitment," said Griffin, head of the Human Rights Campaign.

Proposition 8 is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is considering whether to review a federal appeals court decision that overturned the 2008 ballot imitative. Gay rights lawyers said Tuesday's election demonstrates to the court that public opinion on same-sex marriage is moving rapidly in favor of gay rights.

"This will send an even clearer message to the justices about which way the winds of history are blowing," Davidson said. "And I think it may raise questions in their mind about whether to even take the case."

Opponents of same-sex marriage blamed their defeats on the Democratic nature of the states in play on Tuesday and the lopsided spending in favor of marriage rights.

"The other side is now going to try to pass more marriage laws, and we will have to work twice as hard," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which spent $5.5 million on Tuesday's ballot measures. "Today is a bad day for us."

Frank Schubert, who ran the campaign against gay marriage in all four states, downplayed the results as coming from "very liberal, deeply blue" states and insisted the issue remained hotly contested throughout the country.

"The American people continue to view marriage as a union between one man and one woman," Schubert said. "There's nothing about last night that changes that. There's no sea change in the country."

Tuesday's election also brought more liberals to the Legislature in Illinois, where state Rep. Greg Harris says he expects to introduce a bill supporting same-sex marriage in 2013. The Democrat introduced a bill on the issue this year that did not pass.

"The climate has changed in a huge way," Harris said in a postelection phone call, according to the newspaper Crain's Chicago Business.

Rhode Island, which recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere but doesn't allow them to occur in the state, will probably introduce legislation permitting same-sex marriage this year as well.

Although gay marriage is still prohibited in Minnesota, Tuesday's victory at the ballot box may lead same-sex marriage advocates to try to overturn that law.

Minnesota voters on Tuesday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, with 52% of voters rejecting the amendment and 48% supporting it. Any voter who left the question blank counted as a "no" vote.

The governor of Minnesota is a Democrat, and on Tuesday, the party recaptured both chambers of the Legislature after a divisive year in which Republicans in the statehouse often warred with the governor.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, also a Democrat, has said that he believes it is "inevitable" that his state will pass a law approving gay marriage, and that advocates could introduce a bill as soon as next year.

A federal judge in Hawaii also set the stage for a potential battle there, ruling in August that the state's ban on same-sex marriages was constitutional. The ruling said any changes to the law would have to be made by lawmakers or through an initiative process.

Despite the progress, gay rights campaigns have a long way to go. Same-sex marriage is permitted in nine states and the District of Columbia but banned in 41 states.

Lambda's Davidson said California's gay community was particularly impatient after seeing the gains in other states, and noted that the wait could be long. Davidson said the high court could simply hold the Proposition 8 case for a year or so until it reviews rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act.

Whatever the court does, Tuesday's election shows that "eventually the country is going to be supportive of the rights of same-sex couples to marry," and the justices will not want to write a ruling that history abhors, Davidson said.

Or the vote could spur the court to decide to leave the marriage question to the states, anti-gay-marriage activist Brown said:

"The fact that states are working it out state by state undercuts the idea that you would need the court to intervene."



Gay rights and the marriage march


Gay rights and the marriage march

November 8, 2012

It took a long time for same-sex marriage to win at the ballot box, but when it finally happened Tuesday, it happened in a big way. In the states where voters considered measures to recognize gay marriage rights — Maine, Maryland and Washington — all three won approval. In Minnesota, voters rejected a Proposition 8-like measure that would have embedded a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

Let's not fool ourselves: This nation has a long way to go before all gay and lesbian couples enjoy full marriage rights. The vast majority of states ban gay marriage. But that is going to change. Polls over the last several years have shown steady increases in acceptance of same-sex marriage.

The changing attitudes were visible in more than just the four states that voted on ballot measures. In Iowa, for instance, state Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins kept his seat even though social conservatives sought his ouster because he was among the justices to rule in 2009 that the state's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Supporters of equal marriage rights were elected to legislatures in several states, and lawmakers in a few have said they will introduce marriage bills. And it is significant that on Tuesday, the nation for the first time elected a president who openly supports same-sex marriage (Obama said in 2008 that he opposed same-sex marriage but later changed his mind) and whose party adopted that stance in its platform, something that couldn't have happened a decade ago.

The nation is on a long, jagged ride that sometimes moves us closer to full marriage equality and then turns disappointingly back. In 2009, Maine's governor signed a marriage rights bill into law; voters overrode it. This week, they changed their minds. As Tuesday's election showed, through a combination of legislative efforts and ballot measures, gay marriage is working its bumpy way forward. But when lawmakers or voters deprive gay and lesbian couples of their civil rights — as California voters did when they approved Proposition 8 in 2008 — then it falls to the courts to step in and set things right. A federal appeals court did just that in California, declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional. In less than two weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether to let that ruling stand.

We like to think that if Californians had been considering Proposition 8 all over again on Tuesday, they would have rejected it. At this point, though, it's up to the nation's high court to make clear what California voters failed to recognize: The right to wed should not be denied on the basis of sexual orientation.

Tunisia Battles Over Pulpits, and Revolt’s Legacy

If you love mixing religion and government you might want to move to Tunisia!


Tunisia Battles Over Pulpits, and Revolt’s Legacy


Published: November 11, 2012

KAIROUAN, Tunisia — On the Friday after Tunisia’s president fell, Mohamed al-Khelif mounted the pulpit of this city’s historic Grand Mosque to deliver a full-throttle attack on the country’s corrupt culture, to condemn its close ties with the West and to demand that a new constitution implement Shariah, or Islamic law.

The New Islamists

Mohamed al-Khelif, who at the Grand Mosque in Kairouan has attacked Tunisian ties with the West and demanded Islamic law.

“They’ve slaughtered Islam!” thundered Dr. Khelif, whom the ousted government had barred from preaching for 20 years. “Whoever fights Islam and implements Western plans becomes in the eyes of Western politicians a blessed leader and a reformer, even if he was the most criminal leader with the dirtiest hands.”

Mosques across Tunisia blazed with similar sermons that day and, indeed, every Friday since, in what has become the battle of the pulpit, a heated competition to define Tunisia’s religious and political identity.

Revolution freed the country’s estimated 5,000 officially sanctioned mosques from the rigid controls of the previous government, which appointed every prayer leader and issued lists of acceptable topics for their Friday sermons.

That system pushed a moderate, apolitical model of Islam that avoided confronting a dictator. When the system collapsed last year, ultraconservative Salafis seized control of up to 500 mosques by government estimates. The government, a proponent of a more temperate political Islam, says it has since wrested back control of all but 70 of the mosques, but acknowledges it has not yet routed the extremists nor thwarted their agenda.

“Before, the state suffocated religion — they controlled the imams, the sermons, the mosques,” said Sheik Tai’eb al-Ghozzi, the Friday Prayer leader at the Grand Mosque here. “Now everything is out of control — the situation is better but needs control.”

To this day, Salafi clerics like Dr. Khelif, who espouse the most puritanical, most orthodox interpretation of Islam, hammer on favorite themes that include putting Islamic law into effect immediately, veiling women, outlawing alcohol, shunning the West and joining the jihad in Syria. Democracy, they insist, is not compatible with Islam.

“If the majority is ignorant of religious instruction, then they are against God,” said Sheik Khatib al-Idrissi, 60, considered the spiritual guide of all Tunisian Salafis. “If the majority is corrupt, how can we accept them? Truth is in the governance of God.”

The battle for Tunisia’s mosques is one front in a broader struggle, as pockets of extremism take hold across the region. Freshly minted Islamic governments largely triumphed over their often fractious, secular rivals in postrevolutionary elections. But those new governments are locked in fierce, sometimes violent, competition with the more hard-line wing of the Islamic political movements over how much of the faith can mix with democracy, over the very building blocks of religious identity. That competition is especially significant in Tunisia, once the most secular of the Arab nations, with a large educated middle class and close ties to Europe.

The Arab Spring began in Tunisia, and its ability to reconcile faith and governance may well serve as a barometer for the region.

Some analysts link the assertive Tunisian Salafi movement to what they consider a worrying spread of violent extremism across North Africa — including an affiliate of Al Qaeda seizing control of northern Mali; a murderous attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya; a growing jihadi force facing Israel in the Sinai; and a mob looting an American school and parts of the United States Embassy in Tunis.

Senior government officials said the various groups share an ideology and are in contact with one another, suggesting that while they are scattered and do not coordinate their operations, they reinforce one another’s agendas. There have been several episodes of jihadists caught smuggling small arms from Libya to Mali or Algeria across Tunisia, for example, including two small trucks packed with Kalashnikovs and some manner of shoulder-fired missiles or grenades in June, said Ali Laarayedh, the interior minister.

President Moncef Marzouki and several ministers blamed the domestic spread of Islamic extremism on the ousted government, saying it created a vacuum by gutting traditional religious education over the past 50 years. Mr. Marzouki estimated that the number of violent extremists was only about 3,000, but he acknowledged that they were a growing menace to national security. Enlarge This Image Moises Saman for The New York Times

The Grand Mosque. After Tunisia’s revolution, ultraconservative Salafis took over up to 500 mosques, the government says.

Aside from a few “zealous” leaders, most are misguided youths, said Mr. Laarayedh, the interior minister. Critics find their potential for violence unsettling, and repeated episodes — security forces shot dead a young Salafi in a confrontation last week — play havoc with the image of a country dependent on tourism.

The government, dominated by the Renaissance Party, is struggling to contain the problem without resorting to the brutal methods of the toppled dictatorship. It has jailed about 800 Salafis, said Samir Dilou, the human rights minister, and arrests of those advocating violence accelerated after protesters looted the American Embassy compound on Sept. 14 in response to a video mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

The word Salafi encompasses a broad spectrum of Sunni fundamentalists whose common goal is resurrecting Islam as practiced by the Prophet Muhammad when he founded the faith in the seventh century. Salafis range from peaceful proselytizers to those who spread Islam by force.

In Kairouan, 100 miles south of Tunis, Salafis control 5 of the city’s 35 mosques, said Sheik Ghozzi, the Grand Mosque’s prayer leader.

“The Salafis find themselves empowered because they have not faced any resistance from the government,” said Sheik Ghozzi, 70, a slight man wearing a short-cropped gray robe. Without a “strict” reaction, along with dialogue, they will become “a danger to the state,” he said.

The Grand Mosque, a sandstone citadel, reflects the martial origins of Kairouan, the capital of the first Muslim army to capture North Africa. It is Tunisia’s oldest mosque.

Sheik Ghozzi and other critics accuse the extremists of pushing a far less tolerant version of Islam than that long practiced in Tunisia. Salafi prayer leaders recruit young men to die fighting in Syria, he said, although Islam forbids killing other Muslims.

Salafis repeatedly try to chase tourists from the Grand Mosque; have threatened to level the popular shrine of Sidi Sahbi, a companion of the Prophet Muhammad buried here, although so far they have only fought with worshipers trying to pray there; and imported Saudi Arabian clerics who demanded that Tunisians confront the West. At some mosques, traditional prayer leaders were threatened with beatings or even death if they did not leave, Sheik Ghozzi said. In others, the locks were changed to bar them.

In a few towns, the struggle degenerated into brawls with sticks and fists. The Salafists have also enforced Islamic law on their own. In Sidi Bouzeit this September, a group of about 70 Salafists sacked the only hotel in town that sold alcohol, shattering its outdoor fountains by heaving full cases of beer into them.

“They want their own imams who use their words, who speak their language,” Sheik Ghozzi said. “They want someone who calls for jihad, who tells them to go fight in other countries, who curses the Shiites and who calls on them to go out to defend the Koran by force.”

It was worshipers who asked Dr. Khelif not to return after that first Friday, Sheik Ghozzi said.

But Dr. Khelif, 60, a pediatrician and the son of a famous Grand Mosque imam, said only misguided Tunisians consider his preaching somehow foreign.

“Islam is the Islam that was revealed to the prophet — it was not Islam revealed to my father or any other Tunisian father,” he said, speaking in his clinic, pictures of the Grand Mosque mingled on the walls with Walt Disney characters. Dr. Khelif, who has grown a long, shaggy white beard and assumed the duties of prayer speaker at another mosque since the revolution, denied that any Salafi preachers occupied mosques by force. Worshipers are free to pray elsewhere, he noted.

In a show of strength, the Salafi movement organized a huge rally at the Grand Mosque last May, drawing tens of thousands of followers from around Tunisia who voiced frustration at the slow pace of applying Islamic law.

But Nourredine Khadmi, the minister of religious affairs, said that his ministry was in the process of evaluating potential new imams and that he had appointed some 2,000 imams since January. “By winter, everything will be stable,” he said in an interview, though last spring he predicted it would be by August.

“It is a difficult problem to resolve,” said Abdelfattah Mouru, a Renaissance Party founder and himself the victim of several physical attacks by young Salafis. “You need either public opinion or a public force. You cannot dispatch the police into the mosques to put them in order, it is impossible, it is both immoral and against the religion.”

In Tunis in October, five men set fire to the shrine of Leila Manoubia, a 13th-century saint. Young Tunisian women wrote their names on the walls if they wanted to get married or pregnant. Salafis condemn such prayers as idolatry, although who attacked the shrine remains unconfirmed.

“I want Tunisia to be a place where a woman can wear a veil or not, where we can pray or not,” said Asma Ahmadi, 34, who said she started visiting the shrine at age 15 and considers it as much about tradition as religion.

“They are trying to break the mystical balance between tradition and religion in Tunisia,” she said. “They are trying to burn our identity to replace it with something we don’t know.”

Iran prosecutor: Blogger died in police custody


Iran prosecutor: Blogger died in police custody

Associated Press Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:14 AM

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s state prosecutor confirms that a jailed blogger died in police custody last week, and wounds were found on his body.

It’s the first official confirmation of Sattar Beheshti’s death in custody.

The U.S. State Department and a press freedom group have called for investigation of the “suspicious death.”

Prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi says wounds were found in five places on Beheshti’s body. Also, there was a copy of a letter of complaint in his name against his interrogator.

Ejehi’s remarks were reported by the semi-official Mehr news agency Monday.

Beheshti was detained Oct. 31 for alleged cybercrimes. Iran’s judiciary chief has ordered an inquiry into his death.

Dozens of bloggers and journalists have been arrested in crackdowns on dissent in Iran in recent years.

Utah school district sued over restricted access to lesbian family book


Utah school district sued over restricted access to lesbian family book

By Jennifer Dobner | Reuters

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A Utah parent has sued her school district in federal court challenging the constitutionality of restrictions imposed on student access to a library book about a lesbian couple raising a family.

"In Our Mothers' House" by author Patricia Polacco was removed from Davis School District library shelves and placed behind the counter last spring after complaints from some parents that a lifestyle they viewed as aberrant was favorably depicted in the book.

Under a decision made by a district committee in April, the book remains in its school library collections, but students need permission from their parents to check it out.

School officials acknowledge no similar limits have been placed on other titles in the library inventories of the Davis district, which encompasses an area north of Salt Lake City.

Parent Tina Weber objected to the restrictions, and attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on her behalf in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, saying the policy amounts to "prior restraint" that violates her children's free-speech rights.

No hearings have been set in the case, for which the ACLU is seeking class-action status.

Utah is not the first place parents have raised concerns about Polacco's book, which was published in 2009. A 2011 report by the ACLU of Texas showed "In Our Mothers' House" was banned in several schools in that state.

The Utah lawsuit asserts that by restricting access to a book based on its depiction of a family with same-sex parents, "the district has placed a discriminatory burden on the students' ability to access fully protected speech."

"Even worse, restricting access to 'In Our Mothers' House' and segregating it from the rest of the library collection places an unconstitutional stigma on the book and the students who wish to read it," the lawsuit says.

Weber has two children who attend Windridge Elementary School, where other parents first complained about the book, and she gave her youngsters permission to check it out.

Their ages are not specified in the lawsuit, but the legal director for the ACLU's Utah chapter said Weber read the story together with her 6-year-old daughter.

District officials have not yet been served with the lawsuit and cannot comment on its contents, spokesman Chris Williams told Reuters on Wednesday.


"We still feel very comfortable with the process we followed, which is laid out in district policy," Williams said. "We still believe that at no time did we take parents out of the driver's seat. Parents still have the opportunity, if they want their child to read the book, to get it. It's not on the shelves, but it's accessible."

Parents were informed by letter of the restricted access after a district panel voted 6-1 in favor of requiring permission slips to check out the book. An elementary school committee of parents and educators decided earlier to allow only children in grades 3 and up to read the book.

"I was shocked when I heard that a handful of parents had made a decision about whether everyone else's kids could have access to this book," Weber said in a statement issued through Utah's ACLU office.

District officials have said that leaving the book on the library shelves would run afoul of Utah state sex education laws that prohibit any advocacy of homosexuality in the school curriculum. The district argues that curriculum extends to its library collections.

The ACLU lawsuit argues that library books are not curriculum materials and that including the book in library offerings does not amount to an endorsement of homosexuality.

The author of numerous award-winning children's books, Polacco has said she wrote the "In Our Mothers' House" after attending a school assembly where a child was silenced for speaking out about her same-sex parents.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Osterman)

Minnesota High School Cracks Down on Leggings, Yoga Pants

I wonder if these government bureaucrats ever have time to educated the kids. They seem to be more concerned with shoving "their" version of religious morality down the kids throats.


Minnesota High School Cracks Down on Leggings, Yoga Pants

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Senior Editor, Yahoo! Shine | Parenting – Wed, Nov 14, 2012 11:24 AM EST

Minnetonka High School Principal David Adney emailed parents on Monday, asking them to talk to their daughters about wearing sheer leggings and curve-hugging yoga pants to school. In an interview with Yahoo! Shine, he was quick to say that his email was a request, not an ultimatum.

"This is not a ban on anything," he told Yahoo! Shine. "We're just trying to guide them to make better decisions for themselves."

"We want them to strive for modesty," he added. "We can't define modesty for every family, but we can ask them to make good decisions that reflect well on their families."

Girls have been wearing yoga pants and leggings to school for years, Adney acknowledges, but in the past they'd pair the skin-tight legwear with tunics, jerseys, or long sweaters. "It's a fashion trend that has existed for a while, but has accelerated," he said. Now they've been coming into school wearing shorter shirts, exposing their legs, backsides, and more.

"Not all leggings are created equal," Adney pointed out, choosing his words carefully. "With Lyrca and Spandex, the definition can be severe, front and back."

One solution? Wear the leggings, but slip on a longer top. "Cover your butts up—I'm just going to say it straight up," Adney told the Star Tribune. "We're seeing too much."

Complaints about the overexposure came from female staffers, volunteers, and even other students, Adney says, prompting him send out the email request.

"On things that are going on in school, we try to address the kids directly, to be proactive," Adney said. "But with this, we didn't want to embarrass any girls, so we emailed the parents."

While some students are upset about the issue—"As long as they're not see-through, they should be allowed," freshman Carine Colwell told the Star Tribune—Adney says that plenty of people have thanked him for intervening.

"I've received about 100 messages in 24 hours, and only two of them were negative," he told Yahoo! Shine. "And those two said that it was highly sexist." (Boys at the school have also had their fashion choices scrutinized, he points out. Last spring, Adney put out an alert about revealing muscle shirts; this fall, he had to enforce a no-baseball-hat policy, and in years past baggy jeans have been a big issue—just as they were when he became the principal more than 10 years ago.)

This isn't Adney's first trend-related clash. In 2006, he gained national attention for cracking down on "grinding"—ultra-dirty dirty dancing—at Minnetonka High School, telling students that they should "dance like Grandma's watching" instead. Even then, rather than preaching to the kids or forcing them to sign pledges, he collaborated with them to create a series of hilarious videos about "the dangers of grinding."

When it comes to clothes, the Minnetonka High School handbook simply asks that clothing not be disruptive, offensive, or inappropriate. The goal is to instill in kids a set of high expectations, not to hound them with a set of fixed rules, Adney explained.

"It's about creating a culture," he said. If you build an environment where you outline expectations and encourage discussion, kids feel heard and respected. "It's not a freakish control thing."

The father of three grown daughters, Adney says he gets the girls' desire to be fashionable. "We don't want to be the clothes police, walking around with measuring devices," he said. "But it's not too much to ask you to keep your butts covered."

FBI investigation reveals bureau’s comprehensive access to electronic communications

The police that are spying on you probably read this email before you did!!!!

I suspect a number of FBI agents have read this email before you did. Or if your reading it on the web page, a FBI agent probably read it just after I posted it.

Remember if you are doing something illegal you certainly should not be talking about it in an email or posting it on the internet where federal, state, county, and local city cops watch our every move.

You can encrypt your emails with something like PGP, but I suspect if you piss the Feds off enough they are willing to spend big bucks to get the folks at the NSA to decrypt your messages.

And last but not least your telephone isn't that safe either. The police routinely illegally listen to our phone calls without the required "search warrants".

Remember any time you use a cell phone you are also using a radio transmitter and EVERYTHING you say is broadcast onto the airwaves for anybody to listen to.


FBI investigation of Broadwell reveals bureau’s comprehensive access to electronic communications

By Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima, Published: November 17

The FBI started its case in June with a collection of five e-mails, a few hundred kilobytes of data at most.

By the time the probe exploded into public view earlier this month, the FBI was sitting on a mountain of data containing the private communications — and intimate secrets — of a CIA director and a U.S. war commander. What the bureau didn’t have — and apparently still doesn’t — is evidence of a crime.

How that happened and what it means for privacy and national security are questions that have induced shudders in Washington and a queasy new understanding of the FBI’s comprehensive access to the digital trails left by even top officials.

FBI and Justice Department officials have vigorously defended their handling of the case. “What we did was conduct the investigation the way we normally conduct a criminal investigation,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday. “We follow the facts.”

But in this case, the trail cut across a seemingly vast territory with no clear indication of the boundaries, if any, that the FBI imposed on itself. The thrust of the investigation changed direction repeatedly and expanded dramatically in scope.

A criminal inquiry into e-mail harassment morphed into a national security probe of whether CIA Director David H. Petraeus and the secrets he guarded were at risk. After uncovering an extramarital affair, investigators shifted to the question of whether Petraeus was guilty of a security breach.

When none of those paths bore results, investigators settled on the single target they are scrutinizing now: Paula Broadwell, the retired general’s biographer and mistress, and what she was doing with a cache of classified but apparently inconsequential files.

On Capitol Hill, the case has drawn references to the era of J. Edgar Hoover, the founding director of the FBI, who was notorious for digging up dirt on Washington’s elite long before the invention of e-mail and the Internet.

“The expansive data that is available electronically now means that when you’re looking for one thing, the chances of finding a whole host of other things is exponentially greater,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-­Calif.), a member of the House intelligence committee and a former federal prosecutor.

In this case, Schiff said, the probe may have caused more harm than it uncovered. “It’s very possible that the most significant damage done to national security was the loss of General Petraeus himself,” Schiff said.

Not the usual boundaries

The investigation’s profile has called attention to what legal and privacy experts say are the difficulties of applying constraints meant for gathering physical evidence to online detective work.

Law enforcement officers conducting a legal search have always been able to pursue evidence of other crimes sitting in “plain view.” Investigators with a warrant to search a house for drugs can seize evidence of another crime, such as bombmaking. But the warrant does not allow them to barge into the house next door.

But what are the comparable boundaries online? Does a warrant to search an e-mail account expose the communications of anyone who exchanged messages with the target? [Warrants, who needs stinking warrants. We will just do an illegal search and laugh when the illegal search causes you to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers to get it throw out. Remember the police are criminals who routinely break the law in an effort to put other criminals in jail. If cops didn't routinely commit perjury they wouldn't have a slang word for it which is testilying!!!]

Similarly, FBI agents monitoring wiretaps have always been obligated to put down their headphones when the conversation is clearly not about a criminal enterprise. [Do you really think an FBI agent is going to put down the headphones and miss out on all that potentially incriminating dirt???] It’s known as minimization, a process followed by intelligence and law enforcement agencies to protect the privacy of innocent people.

“It’s harder to do with e-mails, because unlike a phone, you can’t just turn it off once you figure out the conversation didn’t relate to what you’re investigating,” said Michael DuBose, a former chief of the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section who now handles cyber-investigations for Kroll Advisory Solutions.

Some federal prosecutors have sought to establish a “wall” whereby one set of agents conducts a first review of material, disclosing to the investigating agents only what is relevant. But Michael Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor who consults on electronic surveillance issues, said he thinks “that’s the exception rather than the rule.” [I suspect this is more about convincing juries that the FBI didn't do something illegal, and I doubt if it stops the cops from doing anything illegal.]

It’s unclear whether the FBI made any attempt to minimize its intrusion into the e-mails exchanged by Broadwell and Petraeus, both of whom are married, that provided a gaping view into their adulterous relationship.

Many details surrounding the case remain unclear. The FBI declined to respond to a list of questions submitted by The Washington Post on its handling of personal information in the course of the Petraeus investigation. The bureau also declined to discuss even the broad guidelines for safeguarding the privacy of ordinary citizens whose e-mails might surface in similarly inadvertent fashion.

The scope of the issue is considerable, because the exploding use of e-mail has created a new and potent investigative resource for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement demands for e-mail and other electronic communications from providers such as Google, Comcast and Yahoo are so routine that the companies employ teams of analysts to sort through thousands of requests a month. Very few are turned down. [Remember what I said about NEVER using email to talk about anything you do that illegal. The article just said the FBI routinely gets Google and Yahoo to help them spy on you!!!!]

Wide access to accounts

Although the Petraeus-Broadwell investigation ensnared high-ranking officials and had potential national security implications, the way the FBI assembled evidence in the case was not extraordinary, according to several experts.

The probe was triggered when a Florida socialite with ties to Petraeus and Gen. John R. Allen, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, went to the FBI in June with menacing e-mails from an anonymous sender. [Even if you use an anonymous email the cops will almost certainly get the IP address that the email was sent from which probably will point to you!!!!]

Schiff and others have questioned why the FBI even initiated the case. Law enforcement officials have explained that they were concerned because the earliest e-mails indicated that the sender had access to details of the personal schedules of Petraeus and Allen.

The FBI’s first pile of data came from Jill Kelley, who got to know Petraeus and Allen when she worked as an unofficial social liaison at the military base in Tampa where both men were assigned.

In early summer, Kelley received several anonymous e-mails warning her to stay away from Allen and Petraeus. Kelley was alarmed and turned over her computer to the FBI; she may also have allowed access to her e-mail accounts.

The e-mails were eventually traced to Broadwell, who thought that Kelley was a threat to her relationship with Petraeus, law enforcement officials said. But the trail to Broadwell was convoluted.

Broadwell reportedly tried to cover her tracks by using as many as four anonymous e-mail accounts and sending the messages from computers in business centers at hotels where she was staying while on a nationwide tour promoting her biography of Petraeus. According to some accounts, the FBI traced the e-mails to those hotels, then examined registries for names of guests who were checked in at the time. [See they can hunt down anonymous emails based on the IP address that sent them]

The recent sex scandal that's rocked the armed forces and the CIA has highlighted an often-unseen problem in military families: Marital infidelity. Anthony Mason and Rebecca Jarvis speak with two Army wives to understand if infidelity is the military's dirty little secret.

Once Broadwell was identified, FBI agents would have gone to Internet service providers with warrants for access to her accounts. Experts said companies typically comply by sending discs that contain a sender’s entire collection of accounts, enabling the FBI to search the inbox, draft messages and even deleted correspondence not yet fully erased.

“You’re asking them for e-mails relevant to the investigation, but as a practical matter, they let you look at everything,” said a former federal prosecutor who, like many interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition on anonymity because the FBI inquiry is continuing.

FBI agents can then roam through every corner of the account as if it were their own. [Which is why you should NEVER post illegal stuff on the internet!!!!!!]

The capability to scour e-mail accounts has expanded the bureau’s investigative power dramatically, even in crimes previously seen as difficult to prosecute. For example, officials said, the ability to reconstruct communications between reporters and their sources helps explain why the Obama administration has been able to bring more leak prosecutions than all of its predecessors combined.

E-mail searches vary in scope and technique, from scanning contents for key words “to literally going through and opening every file and looking at what it says,” a former Justice Department official said.

Law enforcement officials said the FBI never sought access to Allen’s computer or accounts. It’s unclear whether it did so with Petraeus. But through Kelley and Broadwell, the bureau had amassed an enormous amount of data on the two men — including sexually explicit e-mails between Petraeus and Broadwell and questionable communications between Allen and Kelley.

Petraeus and Broadwell had tried to conceal their communications by typing drafts of messages, hitting “save” but not “send,” and then sharing passwords that provided access to the drafts. But experts said that ruse would have posed no obstacle for the FBI, because agents had full access to the e-mail accounts.

As they pore over data, FBI agents are not supposed to search for key words unrelated to the warrant under which the data were obtained. But if they are simply reading through document after document, they can pursue new leads that surface.

“Most times, if you found evidence of a second crime, you would stop and go back and get a second warrant” to avoid a courtroom fight over admissibility of evidence, a former prosecutor said. But in practical terms, there is no limit on the number of investigations that access to an e-mail account may spawn.

‘Because of who it was’

There is nothing illegal about the Petraeus-Broadwell affair under federal law. Were it not for Petraeus’s prominent position, the probe might have ended with no consequence. But because of his job — and the concern that intelligence officers caught in compromising positions could be susceptible to blackmail — the probe wasn’t shut down.

“If this had all started involving someone who was not the director of the CIA . . . they would have ignored it,” said David Sobel, senior counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy group. “A bell went off because of who it was.”

That consideration triggered a cascade of additional quandaries for the Justice Department, including whether and when to notify Congress and the White House. The FBI finally did so on election night, Nov. 6, when Deputy Director Sean Joyce called Petraeus’s boss, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.

After being confronted by Clapper, Petraeus agreed to resign.

President Obama said last week that there was “no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security.”

But the data assembled on Allen and Petraeus continue to reverberate. The FBI turned over its stockpile of material on Allen — said to contain as many as 30,000 pages of e-mail transcripts — to the Defense Department, prompting the Pentagon inspector general to start an investigation.

The CIA has also launched an inspector general investigation into Petraeus and his 14-month tenure at the agency, seeking to determine, among other things, whether he used the perks of the position to enable his affair with Broadwell.

If it follows its own protocols, the FBI will hold on to the data for decades. Former officials said the bureau retains records for 20 years for closed criminal investigations, and 30 years for closed national security probes.

Sari Horwitz and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Battle over atheist's nativity display goes to LA court

The issue isn't to force atheism on anyone. The issue is to stop the government from sponsoring religious displays using tax dollars.


Battle over atheist's nativity display goes to LA court

Associated Press

Posted: 11/18/2012 01:34:31 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Damon Vix didn't have to go to court to push Christmas out of the city of Santa Monica. He just joined the festivities.

The atheist's anti-God message alongside a life-sized nativity display in a park overlooking the beach ignited a debate that burned brighter than any Christmas candle.

Santa Monica officials snuffed the city's holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama for decades to sue over freedom of speech violations. Their attorney will ask a federal judge Monday to resurrect the depiction of Jesus' birth, while the city aims to eject the case.

"It's a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested," said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.

Missing from the courtroom drama will be Vix and his fellow atheists, who are not parties to the case. Their role outside court highlights a tactical shift as atheists evolve into a vocal minority eager to get their non-beliefs into the public square as never before.

National atheist groups earlier this year took out full-page newspaper ads and hundreds of TV spots in response to the Catholic bishops' activism around women's health care issues and are gearing up to battle for their own space alongside public Christmas displays in small towns across America this season.

"In recent years, the tactic of many in the atheist community has been, if you can't beat them, join them," said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum's Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington. "If these church groups insist that these public spaces are going to be dominated by a Christian message, we'll just get in the game -- and that changes everything."

In the past, atheists primarily fought to uphold the separation of church and state through the courts. The change underscores the conviction held by many nonbelievers that their views are gaining a foothold, especially among young adults.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a study last month that found 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the last five years. Atheists took heart from the report, although Pew researchers stressed that the category also encompassed majorities of people who said they believed in God but had no ties with organized religion and people who consider themselves "spiritual" but not "religious."

"We're at the bottom of the totem pole socially, but we have muscle and we're flexing it," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. "Ignore our numbers at your peril."

The trouble in Santa Monica began three years ago, when Vix applied for and was granted a booth in Palisades Park alongside the story of Jesus Christ's birth, from Mary's visit from the Angel Gabriel to the traditional crèche.

Vix hung a simple sign that quoted Thomas Jefferson: "Religions are all alike -- founded on fables and mythologies." The other side read "Happy Solstice." He repeated the display the following year but then upped the stakes significantly.

In 2011, Vix recruited 10 others to inundate the city with applications for tongue-in-cheek displays such as an homage to the "Pastafarian religion," which would include an artistic representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The secular coalition won 18 of 21 spaces. The two others went to the traditional Christmas displays and one to a Hanukkah display.

The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil and said: "37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?"

Most of the signs were vandalized and in the ensuing uproar, the city effectively ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.

The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn't trump the Christians' right to free speech.

"If they want to hold an opposing viewpoint about the celebration of Christmas, they're free to do that -- but they can't interfere with our right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum," said William Becker, attorney for the committee. "Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive."

The city doesn't prohibit churches from caroling in the park, handing out literature or even staging a play about the birth of Jesus and churches can always set up a nativity on private land, Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner said in an email.

The decision to ban the displays also saves the city, which had administered the cumbersome lottery process used to award booths, both time and money while preserving the park's aesthetics, she said.

For his part, Vix is surprised -- and slightly amused -- at the legal battle spawned by his solitary act but doesn't plan anything further.

"That was such a unique and blatant example of the violation of the First Amendment that I felt I had to act," said the 44-year-old set builder. "If I had another goal, it would be to remove the 'under God' phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance -- but that's a little too big for me to take on for right now."

Data Doctors: Are my emails private from government agencies?

The answer is - No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no


Data Doctors: Are my emails private from government agencies?

Posted: Monday, November 19, 2012 8:00 am

By Ken Colburn, Data Doctors

Q: What is Metadata? And after the scandal of General Petraeus, are our emails private from government agencies? - Jeremy

A: E-mail has always been one of the least secure methods of transmitting data electronically and this recent scandal shows that even being tech-savvy isn’t much help.

When an e-mail message is created and sent, the message passes through a number of mail servers (think of them as post offices for snail mail) and a record of where the message came from and where it went (via IP addresses) is also created by virtually every device that handles the message.

Since most messages are sent in plain text, it’s technically possible for anyone or any system to read your message anywhere along the way (which is why e-mail encryption is important for sensitive messages). The reality is that most companies have very strict systems in place to keep just anyone from accessing those messages, but the opportunity still exists. [That is BS - Any person with computer administrative powers can read your emails. This is typically a "root" user in the UNIX or Linux worlds. But email administrators without "root" powers can also read your emails]

The information about the message, a.k.a. the ‘metadata’ is how the scandal was exposed. If we continue the snail mail analogy, the post office stamps mail to help route it and DNA or fingerprints on the outside of an envelope can be used to help track down the sender of the mail without ever opening the mail. [Again he is oversimplifying things. This so called 'metadata' is part of the email. It's at the very beginning of each email, and if you can read it, you can also read the email.]

Petraeus, the Director of the CIA, knew that sending and receiving e-mail from an anonymous account wouldn’t be safe, so he used a method commonly used by terrorists and teenagers: create draft messages, but never send them.

If two people have the username and password for the same account, they can create messages for each other that don’t leave the usual trails described above. They save them as draft copies so the other can log in and read the draft, then respond in-kind without ever sending a traceable message. [Well that is almost right. When the message is created, edited or read it does travel over the internet and someone that is monitoring your internet traffic could read it]

Had this been the only communication from the involved parties, they would likely never have been discovered but as usual, human error exposed the affair.

The jealous mistress sent harassing e-mails from an anonymous account to another woman she thought was being flirtatious, which is a criminal violation and began the unravelling of the affair.

The government can’t read your private messages without some level of due process, except in rare situations, but the process is what so many privacy advocates are concerned about. [That is in theory. In reality the FBI and Homeland security police are just as crooked as the criminals they hunt and they routinely illegally read people email, and after they discover a crime they will commit perjury and make up a lame excuse to get the search warrant they were supposed to have before they read your emails]

The current laws were created when electronic storage was expensive and we all tended to use one device and delete things to save space. Today, storage is cheap and we use a plethora of devices that in turn create more records that we tend to keep for much longer periods.

Under current laws, any e-mail that is 6 months old or older can be requested if a criminal prosecutor signs the request. If the message is less than 6 months old, a court order from a judge is required. [But that won't stop a crooked cop from illegally reading your data]

In either case, something that the courts recognize as probable cause has to trigger the request when it comes to the averages citizen. If someone suspected that Petraeus was having an affair, that wouldn’t have been enough to allow the FBI to start requesting access to his personal e-mail accounts.

His mistress’ harassing emails which violated part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is what opened to door and eventually lead to the exposure of the affair to the world.

The lessons to be learned from this scandal are that e-mail has never been or will never be a secure way to communicate with others, if you want to make it more difficult for the government to access your messages, make sure you delete them before they are 6 months old and no matter how secure you think you are, all it takes is one simple human error (or jealous mistress) to render your ‘security system’ useless. [While that might be "technically" right, it is wrong in reality. Just because YOU logically delete one of your emails doesn't mean it is physically deleted from the server that keeps your message. And even if you logically delete a message, but it still physically exists on a server the police can read it. The same is true with files on your personal computer. While you may logically delete a file, it frequently continues to exist on your computer and if it does exist the police can still read it.]

[The bottom line is if you have something that you want to remain private DON'T put it on the internet where 2 billion people might be able to read it.]

Judge sides with atheists in Nativity-scene case

It's not about atheism, it's about forbidding the government from supporting ANY religion.

The First Amendment and most state constitutions forbid mixing government and religion, but sadly a lot of government think it's OK to spend tax dollars to glorify the Christian God during the Christmas season.


Judge sides with atheists in Nativity-scene case

Associated Press Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:59 PM

LOS ANGELES — A federal judge on Monday denied a Christian group’s bid for a preliminary injunction to force suburban Santa Monica to reopen spaces in a city park to private displays, including Christmas Nativity scenes.

U.S. District Court Judge Audrey Collins formalized an earlier tentative ruling during a hearing.

William Becker, the attorney for the Christian group, said he will appeal.

“The atheists won and they will always win unless we get courts to understand how the game is played and this is a game that was played very successfully and they knew it,” Becker said after the hearing.

Christmas Nativity scenes had been erected in Palisades Park for decades. Last year, atheists overwhelmed the city’s auction process for display sites, winning most of the slots and triggering a bitter dispute.

Santa Monica officials snuffed the city’s holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama to sue over freedom of speech claims.

“It’s a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested,” Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee, said in advance of the hearing.

The atheists were not parties to the legal case. Their role outside court highlights a tactical shift as atheists evolve into a vocal minority eager to get their non-beliefs into the public square as never before.

National atheist groups earlier this year took out full-page newspaper ads and hundreds of TV spots in response to Catholic bishops’ activism around women’s health care issues and are gearing up to battle for their own space alongside public Christmas displays in small towns across America this season.

“In recent years, the tactic of many in the atheist community has been, if you can’t beat them, join them,” said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington. “If these church groups insist that these public spaces are going to be dominated by a Christian message, we’ll just get in the game — and that changes everything.”

In the past, atheists primarily fought to uphold the separation of church and state through the courts. The change underscores the conviction held by many nonbelievers that their views are gaining a foothold, especially among young adults.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a study last month that found 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the past five years. Atheists took heart from the report, although Pew researchers stressed that the category also encompassed majorities of people who said they believed in God but had no ties with organized religion and people who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.”

“We’re at the bottom of the totem pole socially, but we have muscle and we’re flexing it,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. “Ignore our numbers at your peril.”

The trouble in Santa Monica began three years ago, when atheist Damon Vix applied for and was granted a booth in Palisades Park alongside the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, from Mary’s visit from the Angel Gabriel to the traditional crèche.

Vix hung a simple sign that quoted Thomas Jefferson: “Religions are all alike -- founded on fables and mythologies.” The other side read “Happy Solstice.” He repeated the display the following year but then upped the stakes significantly.

In 2011, Vix recruited 10 others to inundate the city with applications for tongue-in-cheek displays such as a homage to the “Pastafarian religion,” which would include an artistic representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The secular coalition won 18 of 21 spaces. Two others went to the traditional Christmas displays and one to a Hanukkah display.

The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil and said: “37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?”

Most of the signs were vandalized and in the ensuing uproar, the city effectively ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.

The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee argues in its lawsuit that atheists have the right to protest, but that freedom doesn’t trump the Christians’ right to free speech.

“If they want to hold an opposing viewpoint about the celebration of Christmas, they’re free to do that — but they can’t interfere with our right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum,” said attorney Becker. “Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive.”

The city doesn’t prohibit churches from caroling in the park, handing out literature or even staging a play about the birth of Jesus, and churches can always set up a nativity on private land, Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner said in an email.

The decision to ban the displays also saves the city, which had administered the cumbersome lottery process used to award booths, both time and money while preserving the park’s aesthetics, she said.

For his part, Vix is surprised — and slightly amused — at the legal battle spawned by his solitary act but doesn’t plan anything further.

“That was such a unique and blatant example of the violation of the First Amendment that I felt I had to act,” said the 44-year-old set builder. “If I had another goal, it would be to remove the ‘under God’ phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance — but that’s a little too big for me to take on for right now.”

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and religion, but also states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” That has been interpreted by courts as providing for separation of church and state, barring government bodies from promoting, endorsing or funding religion or religious institutions.

Nativity scene ban: “The atheists won on this'


Nativity scene ban: “The atheists won on this'

November 19, 2012 | 4:36 pm

Santa Monica may bar Nativity and other seasonal displays in public spaces, a federal judge tentatively ruled Monday.

In a closely watched case that has drawn national attention, Judge Audrey B. Collins of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles denied a church coalition’s request that the court require the city to allow Nativity scenes to be displayed in Palisades Park this year, as it has for nearly 60 years.

“The atheists won on this,” said William J. Becker Jr., an attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, a coalition of 13 churches and the Santa Monica Police Officers Assn. Standing in front of TV news cameras outside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building, Becker predicted that the court on Dec. 3 would also grant the city’s request that his group’s lawsuit be dismissed.

That likely outcome, he said, marked “the erosion of 1st Amendment liberty for religious speech.” He compared the city to Pontius Pilate, the judge at Jesus’ trial, saying: “It’s a shame about Christmas. Pontius Pilate was exactly the same kind of administrator.”

Atheist groups praised the judge’s ruling as an example of the upholding of the separation of church and state.

“Religion is innately divisive and just doesn't belong in public parks,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis. “There are tax-exempt churches on every other corner. Why isn't that good enough?”

Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington, called Collins' decision “consistent with other rulings.”

“It’s all or nothing in these cases,” he said. “If the government opens up and creates a limited forum, it can't practice viewpoint discrimination. But it can say, well, we're not going to have any. ... There has to be a level playing field in the public sphere.”

Since 1953, the coalition each December has erected a tableau of scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ.

A few years ago, the tradition offended Damon Vix, an atheist, who applied to put up a booth next to the Nativity story. Last year, he encouraged other atheists to flood the city with applications, including a satirical homage to the “Pastafarian religion” featuring a representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Pakistan dismisses blasphemy case against Christian girl


Pakistan dismisses blasphemy case against Christian girl


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani court dismissed on Tuesday a blasphemy case against a Christian girl which had drawn international condemnation and concern about the rights of religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country.

Rimsha Masih, believed to be no older than 14, was charged with burning pages of the Koran in August but was granted bail in September after a cleric was detained on suspicion of planting evidence to stir up resentment against Christians.

Masih's lawyer, Tahir Naveed, said the Islamabad High Court's decision to throw out the case was based on the fact that no one had seen her burning pages of the Koran.

The case provoked international concern and she could, in theory, have faced execution under Pakistan's blasphemy law despite her age and reported mental problems.

Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy.

The blasphemy law enjoys widespread support among ordinary Pakistanis even though critics say it is often abused by people involved in disputes or against members of religious minorities.

Over the past two years, two senior government officials who had suggested reform of the law were shot dead, one by his own bodyguard. Lawyers threw rose petals at the killer and the judge who convicted him was forced to flee the country.

The number of blasphemy cases brought under the law is rising. Since 1987, there have been almost 250 cases, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies think-tank.

Convictions are common, although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal but mobs often take the law into their own hands.

The think-tank said 52 people had been killed after being accused of blasphemy since 1990.

(Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Pastors group defies IRS ban on politics

Personally I think any laws that forbid religious groups from getting involved in politics are unconstitutional per the 1st Amendment.

But the reason I am posting this article is because our government masters at the IRS seem to be hypocrites and don't enforce these laws which forbid tax-exempt entities from supporting political candidates.


Pastors group defies IRS ban on politics

Amy Julia Harris, California Watch

Updated 10:47 p.m., Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Larry Ihrig, pastor of Celebration Christian Center in Livermore, began his Sunday sermon with the issue on everyone's mind: the outcome of the presidential election.

"Now, some of you may glory in the result, but I know some of you are disappointed," Ihrig told the 100 members of his evangelical Bay Area church after election day.

Count Ihrig, who supported Mitt Romney, among the disappointed.

In the lead-up to the Nov. 6 presidential election, he was one of about 1,600 religious leaders around the country who talked politics from the pulpit, in an organized movement challenging a 1954 federal law that bans churches from supporting candidates during worship services.

The Pulpit Freedom Sunday movement, organized by a Christian legal group in Arizona called Alliance Defending Freedom, encouraged pastors to "preach a biblically based sermon regarding candidates and the election without fearing that the IRS will investigate or punish the church," according to the group's website.

Pastors across the country have posted videos on the Internet of their direct or thinly veiled political endorsements and sent letters to the Internal Revenue Service, daring the agency to revoke their tax-exempt status for political speech.

So far, nothing has happened.

'A spiritual issue'

"The intention of the separation of church and state wasn't the church's encroachment on government, but government's encroachment into the church," Ihrig said. "If I talk about an issue of the violation of biblical truth, then it ceases to be political. It's a spiritual issue."

The federal tax code says religious groups classified as tax-exempt entities are "absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating" in any political campaign or making statements favoring or opposing "any candidate for public office."

But in the 58 years the law has been on the books, the IRS has revoked only one church's tax-exempt status for its involvement in politics, according to agency records.

"Churches, as tax-exempt entities, have received a very lucrative benefit," said Rob Boston, senior policy analyst with the nonpartisan group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "One of the only conditions is not to intervene in partisan politics. That isn't too much to ask. Any church that really feels strongly could give up the tax exemption and be partisan and intervene in politics all day long."

It's unclear whether the IRS even investigates churches that appear to be violating the ban.

"There are lots of laws that aren't enforced," said Jesse Choper, a UC Berkeley law professor who specializes in church-state issues. "This is one of them."

$35 million budget

The group spearheading the pulpit movement, the Alliance Defending Freedom, says it aims to transform the legal system to reclaim America from "radical anti-Christian groups" and debunk "the myth of the so-called separation of church and state."

In 2010, the group had a budget of $35 million to pay 44 in-house lawyers to defend religious test cases around the country free of charge, according to tax documents filed with the IRS.

California is one of the most active states in the preachers' movement. On Pulpit Freedom Sunday, 142 pastors around the state weighed in on politics despite the law.

Some, like Tim Arensmeier of the Sonoma Valley Community Church in Sonoma, told their congregations not to support the Democratic Party. Arensmeier went through a checklist of political issues during his sermon: abortion, gay marriage, family values.

"How can you be a follower of Christ and vote for a candidate that does exactly what the Bible says you shouldn't do?" he said.

In the remote desert community of California City (Kern County), Samuel A.L. Pope Sr., pastor of Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church, raged against President Obama's energy policy, abortion rights stance and support of same-sex marriage.

"Barack Obama, that's who I'm talking about," Pope told his 40-member congregation in a sermon. "Don't vote for that man. He is not for you."

Looking to high court

But politics in the pulpit isn't just a Republican or Democratic issue. A Pew Research Center poll in October found that mentions of politics from the pulpit were evenly split between both major parties.

Organizers of Pulpit Freedom Sunday say they are deliberately thumbing their noses at the IRS in the hope of prompting a court case that could someday land before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"By doing this, we're showing the rest of the pastors in the country that they don't have to be afraid of any government limiting their political speech," said Chris Clark, pastor at the East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego. "You're going to see a lot more boldness from the pulpit."

That's what worries the Wisconsin-based nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation.

IRS sued for inaction

The organization filed a lawsuit against the IRS last week for failing to enforce political restrictions on churches and other religious organizations, calling the agency's inaction a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, according to court documents.

IRS spokesman David Tucker declined to say whether the agency investigates churches for politicking.

The only time the IRS stripped a church of its tax-exempt status was after the 1992 presidential election. The Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., had placed full-page ads in newspapers asserting that Bill Clinton's positions on abortion and homosexuality went against the Bible. The IRS revoked the church's tax-exempt status and won a subsequent court challenge.

The last known IRS action against a church for political speech was in 2009. That year, the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., endorsed Republican congressional candidate Michele Bachmann, and the IRS ruled it had violated the law.

But the U.S. District Court in Minnesota overturned the IRS, finding that it didn't follow its own policy.

"Sooner or later, the IRS is going to have to act," Boston said. "If they don't, they're telling churches to do what they want. What's to stop churches from acting like PACs and being completely tax-exempt and political? That would be a disaster."

California Watch is a project of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. E-mail: aharris@cironline.org

At public meetings, fights over prayer drag on


At public meetings, fights over prayer drag on

Associated Press Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:26 PM

WASHINGTON — It happens every week at meetings in towns, counties and cities nationwide. A lawmaker or religious leader leads a prayer before officials begin the business of zoning changes, contract approvals and trash pickup.

But citizens are increasingly taking issue with these prayers, some of which have been in place for decades. At least five lawsuits around the country — in California, Florida, Missouri, New York, and Tennessee — are actively challenging pre-meeting prayers.

Lawyers on both sides say there is a new complaint almost weekly, though they don’t always end up in court. When they do, it seems even courts are struggling to draw the line over the acceptable ways to pray. Some lawyers and lawmakers believe it’s only a matter of time before the Supreme Court will weigh in to resolve the differences. The court has previously declined to take on the issue, but lawyers in a New York case plan to ask the justices in December to revisit it. And even if the court doesn’t take that particular case, it could accept a similar one in the future.

Lawmakers who defend the prayers cite the nation’s founders and say they’re following a long tradition of prayer before public meetings. [Just what part of the First Amendment don't they understand????] They say residents don’t have to participate and having a prayer adds solemnity to meetings and serves as a reminder to do good work.

“It’s a reassuring feeling,” said Lakeland, Fla., Mayor Gow Fields of his city’s prayers, which have led to an ongoing legal clash with an atheist group. The City Commission’s meeting agenda now begins with a disclaimer that any prayer offered before the meeting is the “voluntary offering of a private citizen” and not being endorsed by the commission. [Then why are they saying the silly prayer???]

Citizens and groups made uncomfortable by the prayers say they’re fighting an inappropriate mix of religion and politics.

“It makes me feel unwelcome,” said Tommy Coleman, the son of a church pianist and a self-described secular humanist who is challenging pre-meeting prayers in Tennessee’s Hamilton County.

Coleman, 28, and Brandon Jones, 25, are urging the county to adopt a moment of silence at its weekly meeting rather than beginning with a prayer.

A number of groups are willing to help with complaints like those filed by Coleman and Jones. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-founder of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, says complaints about the prayers are among the most frequent her organization gets.

Gaylor’s organization sends out letters when it is contacted by citizens, urging lawmakers to discontinue the prayers. Other groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State send out similar letters.

Ian Smith, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says his organization has gotten more complaints in recent years. That could be because people are more comfortable standing up for themselves or more aware of their options, but Smith also said groups on the right have also promoted the adoption of prayers.

Brett Harvey, a lawyer at the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian group that often helps towns defend their practices, sees it the other way. He says liberal groups have made a coordinated attempt to bully local governments into abandoning prayers, resulting in more cases. [Why is it "bullying" when you demand that the government honor the First Amendment and Arizona Constitution and not mix religion and government???]

“It’s really kind of a campaign of fear and disinformation,” Harvey said. [No it's a campaign by the religious folks to force their religion on the rest of us using the force of government]

Harvey has talked with hundreds of towns about their policies and been involved in about 10 court cases in the past three years. Right now, his advice differs for different parts of the country because the law is in flux.

Courts around the country don’t agree on what’s acceptable or haven’t considered the issue. In 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court approved prayer before legislative meetings, saying prayers don’t violate the First Amendment’s so-called Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. But the case didn’t set any boundaries on those prayers, and today courts disagree on what is permissible.

For example, one court ruling from 2011 says that prayers before legislative meetings in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia should be nondenominational or non-sectarian. That means the prayer leader can use general words like “God” and “our creator” but isn’t supposed to use words like “Jesus” ‘’Christ” and “Allah” that are specific to a single religion.

The law is different in courts in Florida, Georgia and Alabama: In 2008 a federal court of appeals overseeing those states upheld the prayer practice of Georgia’s Cobb County, which had invited a rotating group of clergy members to give prayers before its meetings. The prayers were predominantly Christian and often included references to Jesus.

Towns that get complaints, meanwhile, have responded differently. Some have made changes, some willingly and others with misgivings. Other towns have dug in to defend their traditions.

Citizens in Lancaster, Calif., for example, voted overwhelmingly in 2010 to continue their prayers despite the threat of a lawsuit. Mayor R. Rex Parris says the city of 158,000 has already likely spent about $500,000 defending the practice, and he expects to spend more before the case is over. He said the issue is worth it because it has brought the town together. [Why is spending $500,000 on lawyers to force your religious beliefs on others worth it???]

“Once the people realize you are standing up for more than fixing potholes, that sense of community really starts to coalesce,” he said.

Other towns have gone the opposite route, stopping prayer altogether when challenged. Henrico County, Va., stopped prayers recently after lawmakers reviewed recent court decisions and determined it would be too difficult to police the content of prayers.

Still other towns have modified their practices rather than give them up entirely. Earlier this year Kannapolis, N.C., population 45,000, stopped allowing council members to deliver prayers before meetings after getting a Freedom From Religion Foundation letter. Now members pray silently. Council members didn’t want to change the way they prayed, but they also didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars fighting a losing lawsuit.

In Sussex County, Del., lawmakers also agreed to alter their practice this year. For decades the County Council president opened meetings by leading the Lord’s Prayer, which appears in the New Testament. Michael H. Vincent, the current president, said it makes him feel better to begin by “asking a higher power for some guidance in our decision making process.”

Now, however, after a lawsuit, the council has settled on beginning with the 23rd Psalm, a prayer that appears in the Old Testament and is therefore significant to both Christians and Jews.

One of the Delaware residents who challenged the prayer, retired Lutheran minister John Steinbruck, says he’s satisfied with the resolution, though he would have preferred a moment of silence. Though the fight in Sussex County is over for now, others are just starting.

“I think that step by step by step, maybe every community is going to have to deal with this,” Steinbruck said.

Mixing religion and government in Chandler, Arizona


Chandler workers prep tumbleweed tree for Christmas event

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012 5:30 pm

By Mike Sakal, Tribune

It’s beginning to look like a tumbleweed tree Christmas.

This week, Chandler Parks Department workers have been touching up and prepping the 30-feet tall tree at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park to gussy it up in time for a long-running tradition — the 56th annual Tumbleweed Christmas Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights ceremony.

The tree lighting, to be held near Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard, is expected to attract at least 5,000 people.

The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 1, with the tree lighting expected about an hour later, said Russ Lassuy, a Chandler parks maintenance tech.

Earlier this week, workers were stuffing more tumbleweeds, also known as Russian thistle, in the tree, and filling in holes around the steel frame.

The tradition of the tumbleweed tree started in the late 1950s, when Chandler resident Earl Barnum first floated the idea after seeing something similar in Indiana, according to information from the city. Residents built the first tree using tumbleweeds they gathered around town.

This week, workers are planning to spread glitter on the tree and paint the steel frame; early next week, it will be covered with lights.

"We’re working on it, and trying to make the tree look more symmetrical," Lassuy said. "By the time we put the star on top, the tree will be about 33 feet tall."

Between 1,500 to 2,000 tumbleweeds are collected each year for the tree.

Then, the tumbleweeds are sprayed with 25 gallons of white paint, 20 gallons of flame retardant and dusted with 65 pounds of glitter. The tree is later adorned with approximately 1,200 holiday lights.

Barbara Young, a manager in Chandler’s Recreation Department, said, "It’s pretty spectacular. People who work on it have to go farther out of the city to collect the tumbleweeds. Because of all the growth, tumbleweeds are getting harder to find."

Chandler Tumbleweed Christmas Tree Lighting

When: 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1

Where: Dr. A.J. Chandler Park at Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard

Cost: Free admission


Stage Schedule:

• 4:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. — COC Dance

• 5 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. — Angels Dance Studio

• 5:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. — The Dance Loft

• 6 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. — The Arizona Mood Swings

• 8:40 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Studio 3 Showstoppers

East Ramada Schedule:

• 4:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. — New Vistas Show Choir

• 5 p.m. to 5:20 p.m. — Dance Express

• 5:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. — Chandler School of Fine Arts Strings

• 6 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. — Ocotillo Dance Center

• 6:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. — Stacy J Dancing, Scorch, Blaze and The Rivals


• 5:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. — Senior Elite Showstoppers, caroling along parade route

What part of "separation of church and state" doesn't Leon Ceniceros understand???

Look Mr. Leon Ceniceros you are free to practice your religion on private property, but it's wrong to use the government to force your religion on me on public property.

If you love living in a country that mixes religion and government maybe you should move to a religious theocracy where they force religion on people at gun point.

You might enjoy Saudia Arabia or Iran. Of course you might be unhappy, because they will not force Christianity on you at gun point but instead you will have the Muslim religion forced on you at gun point.


Letter: Small minority played big role in eliminating religion

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 5:49 am

Letter to the Editor

In 1691, the first Thanksgiving, where the protestant pilgrims thanked their Lord, Jesus Christ, for giving them a bountiful harvest, began. That could never happen today. [Most of the original 13 colonies were religious theocracies where religion was force on the people that lived in the colonies. How ever the First Amendment bans mixing government and religion in the modern USA, which is NOT a religious theocracy!]

The ACLU and lawyers for non-Christian religions would have a court injunction prohibiting any and all reference to Jesus Christ because that would insult their sensibilities. [And you would certainly do the same if the government started forcing the Muslim religion your you and your children]

Our “public” schools, colleges, universities, and business entities have taken any reference of God or Jesus Christ out of all of our holidays (which were originally holy days). [Again, check out that First Amendment thing!]

Christmas is now called “winter holiday.” Thanksgiving is now called “fall festival.” Easter no longer celebrates the resurrection but is called “spring break” and celebrates bunny rabbits and colored eggs. Workers were given these holidays to attend church; now they work that day because it has become a day of “monster sales.”

The military services are reducing or flat out removing anything that refers to God or Jesus Christ. Just today a judge in Santa Monica, California ordered the removal of a manger scene that has been displayed for years. A cross out in the middle of the Joshua Tree National Monument that was put up before it was a national monument to honor our fallen military ended up as a case of religious discrimination before our Supreme Court. [Again, check out that First Amendment thing!]

Even though 75 percent of Americans declare themselves to be Christian (believers in Jesus Christ), the 4 percent who don’t believe in Jesus Christ and the 13 percent who don’t believe in religion period, have sadly managed to eliminate God in our schools, military and the workplace. [On the other hand just because 75 percent of the population believes in Jesus Christ doesn't give them the right to force it on the remaining 25 percent of the non-believers at the gun point of government]

Leon Ceniceros


What is the War on Christmas?

Colton Gavin seems to think that because Christians are a majority in the USA they can use the government to force their Christmas religious celebrations on the rest of us!

Sorry Colton Gavin, that's why we have the First Amendment at the national level, and why most state constitutions also forbid mixing religion and government.

Their isn't anything wrong with you spending your money to celebrate Christmas, but when you get the government to spend tax dollars to celebrate the Christian holidays you are mixing government and religion and that's wrong.


What is the War on Christmas?

By Colton Gavin

November 26, 2012 at 7:39 pm

The “War on Christmas” has become a popular term of contention this past decade.

It started off with a few simple complaints about the commercialization of the season. It intensified with the worry that the holiday’s emergence would start earlier and earlier every year. Now, the debate has shifted toward a discussion between the religious and the secular.

We live in turbulent times. Christmas music starting a little bit earlier does help make things a little cheerier, just as long as it does not follow Halloween too closely. Tim Burton already warned us against that.

In recent years, it seems we are greeted by more and more horror stories of people and organizations going out of their way to censor and censure the holiday. Last week, I read about a man named Damon Vix, who went out of his way to disrupt a Christmas tradition to make a political point.

Every year, local churches rent and set up a nativity scene in the park in Santa Monica, Calif. Vix rented all of the spaces, leaving most of them blank and setting up his own displays mocking Christmas, upending 60 years of tradition.

Back in the day, it was easy to dismiss the naysayers of Christmas as having hearts that couldn’t appreciate the holiday’s joys and festivities, but the issue goes deeper. People like Vix genuinely feel that their secular liberties are threatened by the open celebration of the holiday.

Gallup polls indicate 93 percent of all Americans celebrate Christmas, despite the fact that about only 78 percent of Americans identifying as Christian. That interesting 15 point spread made me ponder the possibilities. What is keeping Vix and other atheists from joining or even expanding that 15 percent that celebrates Christmas? I talk to atheists every year who feel they are betraying their personal journey by joining the celebration. For a group of people saying that they were leaving religion behind, they sure seemed preoccupied with guilt.

I won’t deny it. I have embraced all aspects of Christmas both religiously and secularly. I have reconciled my scientific queries with my religious convictions. I do not see any real harm in celebrating Christmas openly. We are a country of majority rule, one that doesn’t allow tyranny of the majority.

Open Christmas celebration should not be coercive and should not be falsely labeled.

Let those like Vix have their mocking displays. But let those who celebrate Christmas have their peaceful displays in a season that celebrates charity, giving and sacrifice. It is mockery and hate versus peace and love. Let the public decide which message is more appealing.

Reach the columnist at colton.gavin@asu.edu or follow him at @coltongavin.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to opiniondesk.statepress@gmail.com. Keep letters under 300 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Case puts prayer healing in spotlight

As an atheist I realize that nothing fails like prayer when he comes to treating people for medical problems.

On the other hand even though I don't think praying is an effective treatment for medical problems I certainly don't think the government should mandate what type of medical treatment you can and can't give people to cure their illnesses.

That should be left to the doctors and medical experts.


Case puts prayer healing in spotlight

Associated Press Tue Dec 4, 2012 4:58 PM

MADISON, Wis. — A couple who prayed instead of taking their daughter to the hospital as she lay dying at their home were rightfully convicted of homicide, a state attorney told the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday in a case that raises questions about when prayer healing turns criminal.

Attorneys for Dale and Leilani Neumann argued that the couple didn’t know when the state’s legal protections for prayer healing ended and criminal liability began.

But Assistant Attorney General Maura Whelan told the justices that Wisconsin’s religious protections clearly don’t apply when a child dies and the couple caused the death of their 11-year-old daughter, Madeline Kara, who was suffering from undiagnosed diabetes.

“They created an unreasonable and substantial risk of death,” Whelan said. “They did so knowingly and they caused Kara’s death.”

The Neumanns are appealing their conviction in a case that poses charged questions for the justices about when the state’s responsibility to protect children trumps religious freedom.

More than a dozen states have some form of legal protection for parents who choose to heal their children through prayer rather than seek conventional medical help, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The states have been grappling for years with how far those protections extend, but never before have Wisconsin’s courts been asked to address when an ailing child’s situation is so serious that prayer treatment becomes illegal.

“The court is left with very difficult legal questions in a tragic case,” Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson told the attorneys as Tuesday’s oral arguments ended.

It’s unclear when the court might rule. The justices face no deadline and they often take months to issue decisions.

Madeline Kara died on Easter Sunday in March 2008 in her parents’ Weston home after developing a treatable form of diabetes. Her parents chose to pray for her rather than seek medical help. After she died, they insisted God would raise her from the dead.

Marathon County prosecutors charged the couple with second-degree reckless homicide. Separate juries convicted each of them in 2009. They each faced up to 25 years in prison but a judge sentenced them each to serve a month in jail for six years, with one parent serving every March and the other every September, and spend a decade on probation.

Still, their attorneys appealed. They maintain the couple was wrongly convicted, pointing to a state law that protects people who provide spiritual treatment for a child in lieu of medical help from child abuse charges.

They argue the law protects parents through the point of creating a substantial risk of the child’s death, making it difficult to know when a situation has grown so grave that parents who stick with prayer healing expose themselves to other criminal charges.

“They believed prayer was the best thing for her,” Leilani Neumann’s attorney, Byron Lichstein, told the justices. “How do they know when that prayer treatment becomes illegal?”

Whelan argued that anyone who reads the protection statute would realize it applies to child abuse charges, not homicide. Once parents realize a child is in danger of dying, their legal immunity ends, the attorney said.

The Neumanns had to have known their daughter was nearing death after she lapsed into coma and turned blue, triggering a legal duty to protect her by seeking medical help, Whelan said.

“You can treat this child through prayer, but you better make sure this child doesn’t die,” Justice Annette Ziegler said, summing up Whelan’s arguments.

Both Lichstein and Dale Neumann’s attorney, Steven Miller, conceded that legal immunity for prayer healing ends when it’s clear a child is going to die. But the Neumanns’ daughter showed some signs of improvement before she passed away, they said.

Justice Patience Roggensack noted the juries decided the girl was in danger of dying. She questioned why the justices shouldn’t rely on the juries’ determinations that the couple crossed the line.

But the justices said little else during Tuesday’s hearing that shed light on their feelings on the case, instead mostly focusing their questions on making sure they understood both sides’ stances.

3 Wise Men go up again on Tempe Butte

Anybody can put up religious displays on Tempe Butte. Well, anybody that runs the idea by the Tempe City Council and gets the Tempe City Council to approve their religious display.

So don't count on getting an easy approval of your religious display to worship the wine god Dionysus or the sex god Venus. And don't even think about putting up something worshiping the Flying Spaghetti Monster god who is the true creator of the universe.

Former Tempe city councilman J.G. “Hut” Hutson is responsible for starting this religious display on the Tempe Butte.

The 3 Wise Men are displayed during Christmas and a Cross goes up during Easter. But the city of Tempe says it isn't mixing religion and government. What BS!


3 Wise Men go up again on Tempe Butte

By Kaila White The Republic | azcentral.com Thu Dec 6, 2012 6:55 AM

Three 20-foot kings on camels took their place on Tempe Butte on Saturday for the 78th time, an annual holiday tradition that has endured changes in laws, caretakers and the city of Tempe itself.

The flat, wooden kings ride white camels and point east, different only in the color of their cloaks and head scarves, which are red, orange and blue. They stand on the southern side of the butte, just west of the “A” that lends the butte its nickname, “A” Mountain.

This group of kings is likely the third generation, said J.G. “Hut” Hutson, a former vice mayor for the city who cared for the kings for more than 20 years. They first appeared on the mountain in 1934 along with a lit-up star. One decoration was built by students at Tempe High School and the other by Arizona State University professor Lewis S. Neeb, though Hutson said he has never been able to figure out who created which decoration.

Tempe sponsored their installation and upkeep until December 1983, when the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the use of state funds on religious decorations. Asked for help by then-Mayor Harry Mitchell, Hutson formed a group of about 20 family members and friends, calling it Friends of Tempe Butte.

“We had anticipated putting them up for a couple years,” Hutson said. “One or two years turned out to be 25.”

During his first year of overseeing the kings, Hutson had them completely remade, spending his own money. He never actually received the original camels, just their plans, so he had them rebuilt through a Department of Corrections business program at the state prison in Florence.

After fighting with the ACLU and having the camels rebuilt a second time, Hutson decided in the late 2000s to return the project to the city. Enter Doug Royse, a lifetime Tempe resident with a passion for the community.

“I’m a local Realtor, and giving to the community has always been one of my wishes,” he said. He took on the project and recruited a friend.

Royse stood on Tempe Butte on Saturday with his co-caretaker, Mick Hirko, owner of T.E.A.M. Security. Along with about a dozen volunteers, they rode up the butte in the back of a flatbed truck carrying the kings, each in three pieces.

“To us, it’s not a religious issue,” Hirko said. “It’s, I guess, a freedom issue and something that has been part of the community for so many years, so we want to make sure it stays around for a long time.”

The majority of the volunteers for the past few years have been Hirko’s employees and Royse’s friends, almost all of whom know each other through mutual board positions or volunteer time with Tempe Oktoberfest or the Tempe Exchange Club and its annual Healing Field.

“I think it’s important if you live and work in a community, you’ve got to give something back,” Hirko said. He stores the kings and pays for their maintenance and the electricity used to illuminate them, a total of $500 or $600 per year, he said.

For all their history and renovations, the installation of the kings was surprisingly simple. The volunteers carried the pieces up a path near the top of the butte and chained the bases to metal poles resembling goalposts. The middle sections, the camels’ bellies, were hoisted up by hand, and the kings were lifted with a pulley. It was then all bolted together.

The kings and the floodlights illuminating them have seen their fair share of vandalism, ranging from lights being kicked in to an entire king being cut from the poles.

“For Easter, we put up a big cross and lit it up, and last year, two days before Easter, (people) came up and broke it into a million pieces. We’re worried about the same thing happening,” Hirko said. He and Royse hope to host a fundraiser to make new kings out of metal or plastic, to make them harder to destroy and easier to carry.

“They’re getting old and tired,” he said, laughing.

Until then, Royse said, he is just glad to have enough volunteers to keep the tradition alive.

Cadet quits, cites overt religion at West Point


Cadet quits, cites overt religion at West Point

Associated Press Thu Dec 6, 2012 11:12 AM

ALBANY, New York — A cadet quitting West Point less than six months before graduation says he could no longer be part of a U.S, military culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.

Blake Page announced his decision to quit the U.S. Military Academy this week in a much-discussed online post that echoed the sentiments of soldiers and airmen at other military installations. The 24-year-old told The Associated Press that a determination this semester that he could not become an officer because of clinical depression played a role in his public protest against what he calls the unconstitutional prevalence of religion in the military.

“I’ve been trying since I found that out: What can I do? What can I possibly do to initiate the change that I want to see and so many other people want to see?” Page said. “I realized that this is one way I can make that change happen.”

Page criticized a culture where cadets stand silently for prayers, where nonreligious cadets were jokingly called “heathens” by instructors at basic training and where one officer told him he’d never be a leader until he filled the hole in his heart. In announcing his resignation this week on The Huffington Post, he denounced “criminals” in the military who violate the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution.

“I don’t want to be a part of West Point knowing that the leadership here is OK with just shrugging off and shirking off respect and good order and discipline and obeying the law and defending the Constitution and doing their job,” he told the AP.

West Point officials on Wednesday disputed those assertions. Spokeswoman Theresa Brinkerhoff said prayer is voluntary at events where invocations and benedictions are conducted and noted the academy has a Secular Student Alliance club, where Page served as president.

Maj. Nicholas Utzig, the faculty adviser to the secular club, said he doesn’t doubt some of the moments Page described, but he doesn’t believe there is systematic discrimination against nonreligious cadets.

“I think it represents his own personal experience and perhaps it might not be as universal as he suggests,” said Utzig, who teaches English literature.

One of Page’s secularist classmates went further, calling his characterization of West Point unfair.

“I think it’s true that the majority of West Point cadets are of a very conservative, Christian orientation,” said senior cadet Andrew Houchin. “I don’t think that’s unique to West Point. But more broadly, I’ve never had that even be a problem with those of us who are secular.”

There have been complaints over the years that the wall between church and state is not always observed in the military. The Air Force Academy in Colorado in particular has been scrutinized for years over allegations from non-Christian students that they faced intolerance. A retired four-star general was asked last year to conduct an independent review of the overall religious climate at the academy.

There also has been a growing willingness in recent years by some service members to publicly identify themselves as atheists, agnostics or humanists and to seek the same recognition granted to Christians, Jews and other believers. Earlier this year, there was an event at Fort Bragg that was the first known event in U.S. military history to cater to nonbelievers.

Page said he hears about the plight of other nonreligious cadets in part through his involvement with the West Point affiliate of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The founder and president of that advocacy group said Page’s action is a milestone in the fight against “fanatical religiosity” in the military.

“This is an extraordinary act of courage that I do compare directly to what Rosa Parks did,” said Mikey Weinstein.

Page, who is from Stockbridge, Georgia, and who was accepted into West Point after serving in the Army, said he was notified Tuesday of his honorable discharge. He faces no military commitment and will not have to reimburse the cost of his education.

West Point confirmed that it approved his resignation and that Page had been meeting the academic standards and was not undergoing any disciplinary actions. Page said he had been medically disqualified this semester from receiving a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant — like his classmates will receive in May — because of clinical depression and anxiety. He said his condition has gotten worse since his father killed himself last year.

It’s not unusual for cadets to drop out of West Point, an institution known for its rigorous academic and physical demands. But the window for dropping out without the potential for a penalty is in the first two years. Dropouts are rare after that point.

Shoring up a national house of prayer

Shoring up a national house of prayer

With a headline like that I suspect the First Amendment which outlaws mixing church and state has pretty much been flushed down the toilet.

1893: The most commanding spot in the city

On January 6, 1893, Congress granted a charter (incorporation papers) to the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia, allowing it to establish a cathedral and institutions of higher learning. Signed by President Benjamin Harrison, this charter is the birth certificate of Washington National Cathedral.


Shoring up a national house of prayer

By Timothy M. Phelps, Washington Bureau

December 5, 2012, 6:34 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The earth shook under the nation's church, snapping some of the 53 carillon bells' cables and causing them to ring in forbidding disharmony.

Outside, cracks appeared on some of the wing-like flying buttresses supporting the 100-foot walls and intricate stone arches that mark the Washington National Cathedral as one of the world's greatest Gothic churches.

Still the ground shuddered, coursing energy upward to the grimacing or mirthful gargoyles and the 152 pinnacles that rise like twirled candy above the sheet lead roof. The force, a raging river pressed into a narrow gully, became ever more concentrated as it flowed into the twin 234-foot west towers and the 301-foot central tower.

The tops of 50-ton pinnacles started swaying from north to south, then dancing like raindrops upon their pedestals. Crockets, finials and other ornaments, hand-chiseled by generations of mostly Italian carvers, started falling with booms that master stonemason Joe Alonso, outside on the grounds in his truck, thought were explosions.

Twenty-one years before, Alonso had put the Episcopal cathedral's last stone in place, capping the nearly century-long effort to create a "house of prayer for all people," the scene of events etched into the nation's memory. When former President Reagan died in 2004, his state funeral there drew 4,000 people, including 36 kings, presidents and prime ministers.

The son of a stonemason who emigrated from Spain, Alonso's lifelong work had been the cathedral, first building it, then maintaining it. Now, jumping out of his truck, he joined tourists and church staff who gaped at the building.

"I saw crowds looking up," the 51-year-old said. "Then I saw the tower, the first three pinnacles, and I thought, wait a minute, is it gone?"

The fourth pinnacle was indeed gone. The job Alonso thought he had finished suddenly wasn't.


The rare East Coast earthquake that hit at 1:51 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2011, shook more people than any other in U.S. history, from Georgia to the U.S.-Canada border.

"Everything was missing and twisted," Alonso said. "My fear was, has the structure of the cathedral been compromised?"

A big fellow — 6 foot 5 — who went to a Catholic high school in Washington's Virginia suburbs, he looks like the stone man that he is. But as he strides around its manicured grounds or leans out over its balconies — all the while pointing and exclaiming, "I built that arch!" or "I built that pinnacle!" — he emerges also as the philosopher in residence.

"This cathedral stands for a lot of things," Alonso said recently, sitting on an overturned plastic pail in his masonry-dusted workshop littered with salvaged finials and lined with the tools of his trade.

"I've been around this cathedral for 27 years, and it affects people who visit many different ways," he said. "Some come for the architecture, the craftsmanship, the artwork. Then there are those who walk in the door and fall on their knees and pray. This building, it touches people, on many different levels."

On Sept. 29, 1990, Alonso and two other men guided the last stone, a 1,008-pound cross-shaped finial, into place on one of the west towers, as President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush looked on.

"It was 83 years from the day the first stone was laid," with President Teddy Roosevelt supervising, Alonso said. "That, for me, was a powerful moment.

I was up there guiding that stone and I felt there were a lot of stonemason ghosts helping me do that."

Now Alonso was afraid to know just how much work had been undone. He would have to climb the central tower, which rises above the center of the cross-shaped building, to find out.

"I thought, I don't want to go up but I have to go up. As I climbed up the spiral staircase, I thought, am I going to see a big chunk of daylight through the walls?"


The National Cathedral was built in the old way, entirely by hand, with the exception of the cranes that lifted the pieces in place.

Two types of craftsmen and craftswomen built the exterior. Alonso is a stonemason, who wielded a trowel to put its pieces together. Alongside the masons worked the stone carvers, whose chisels sculpted the 112 gargoyles and 1,130 grotesques, the angels and the decorative crockets, or balls, the arches and the statues.

After high school Alonso learned the stone trade in Washington as an apprentice for four years in the Stone and Marble Masons Union, then went to work at the cathedral on the last big project, building the two west towers, which at that point were just barely above the roof line.

In fact, he married this sculpted hunk of stone even as he married his wife, Maureen, whom he first spied 27 years ago from the scaffolding high up on the South Tower as the young horticulturist was working the flower beds in the Bishop's Garden below.

"I'm not a stone carver," Alonso said with no trace of defensiveness. "I can't carve your face in stone. But I can cut stone, shape stone. I was one of the masonry guys on the building with a trowel, building it."

Like the schoolchildren who visit, he delights in the sense of humor displayed in some carvings. The cathedral's message is religious, worshipful, but also full of jokes and secular references. Its most famous carving is a grotesque of Darth Vader, chosen in a schoolchildren's competition. There is even "Flirting Stone Carver," leaning lasciviously from the scaffolding while whistling at the girls below, and next to him, "Aghast Dean," the priest in robes who is horrified by what Flirting Carver is up to.

Alonso's favorite piece is a gargoyle of Medusa, the Greek monster with snakes instead of hair, who (appropriately for this setting) turned all who gazed on her to stone. "I put that in place," he said proudly. "Who would have thought to put Medusa on a cathedral? That's awesome."


Alonso climbed the spiral staircase, and was relieved: He didn't see daylight. "But when I got to the roof, it was just littered with stones from the pinnacles." A two-ton pinnacle top had toppled, but it had fallen inward onto the tower. Had it gone the other way, it would have fallen 200 feet through the roof of the nave, the main body of the cathedral.

Looking down, he could see scaffolding on the north side of the nave where he and his two stone carvers, Andy Uhl and Sean Callahan, had planned to perform maintenance that afternoon until other chores got in the way. The area was littered with fist-sized chunks of stone.

Alonso says that despite his workplace, he is not overly religious. But at that moment, he thought, "There you go, the hand of God, the hand of whoever, was looking out for Andy, Sean and Joe." And for their beloved cathedral. "I don't think of God as Catholic or Episcopalian. But there is some higher being that liked this building who was looking out for us."

Miraculously, no employees or visitors were hurt, even though at least 29 pinnacles were toppled, rotated on their base or otherwise damaged (one lodged in the roof), flying buttresses had cracked and separated from the walls, and small stones had rained down everywhere.

The cathedral was closed for nearly three months while workers assessed the damage and stabilized the structure. Although interior damage was minimal, netting shrouds the ceiling lest bits of mortar fall on worshipers. Chain-link fences keep visitors away from the damaged buttresses on the east end and parts of the nave. It is estimated repairs will cost at least $20 million and last years.

Alonso, who navigates the hidden stairways and corridors with the intimate knowledge of a child playing in his attic, took some visitors up a stairwell secreted within a large pinnacle on the south transept, the part of the cathedral that forms the arms of the cross.

There, on a scaffolding with a perilous view of the Potomac River, he pointed to what he says may be the biggest challenge of the reconstruction: a 20-ton pinnacle, rotated on its base, that is resting for the moment on a series of jacks and pipes.

"It's like a giant hand took the top of this pinnacle and spun it," Alonso said in wonder.

The pinnacle, and eight on the central tower, must be dismantled stone by stone and put back together again. At the central tower, the job requires a giant crane and 70 tons of steel scaffolding, already in place.

But one thing Alonso won't need to repair will be the last finial he placed with great ceremony in 1990. It held steady.

Alonso, who was 24 when he came to work at the cathedral, now has knees that ache and betray the hint of a limp from too many days working on them instead of his feet.

"If I retire at 70, then I have 19 years to fix this place if my knees hold up," Alonso said. "If they don't, I'll be up here in a walker."


Files on accused LA priests could soon be public


Files on accused LA priests could soon be public

Associated Press Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:19 AM

LOS ANGELES — Secret files kept for decades by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles on priests accused of sexually abusing children could soon become public as a five-year legal battle over their release reaches its endgame.

A judge will hear final objections Monday from accused priests and is also expected to begin hashing out a timeline for the release of thousands of pages of top-secret church documents on abusive clerics. Plaintiff attorneys have been trying to gain access to the files since a $660 million settlement in 2007 called for their disclosure.

Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court declined to intervene after a lower court ordered the release of some of the files, setting the stage for a larger disclosure.

Both attorneys for the church and the plaintiffs said they expected the documents would be made public within a month and no later than February after Monday’s critical hearing. Private files on Franciscan friars accused of abuse were released earlier this year after a similar legal fight.

“There are explosive documents that are going to be coming out,” said lead plaintiff attorney Ray Boucher, who has seen some of the material while reviewing it with archdiocese attorneys in preparation for the release.

“I don’t think there’s any question but that the information that will be forthcoming … is beyond anything the public has seen so far.”

The files contain letters between church leaders, including the recently retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, letters to and from the priests themselves, notes and memos about reports of suspected abuse, medical and psychological records and — in some cases — paperwork petitioning for a particular priest’s defrocking by the Vatican.

Michael Hennigan, an archdiocese attorney, said the church is committed to releasing the documents but wants to make sure the privacy rights of priests are protected.

Plaintiffs in particular want to see if — and when — archdiocese officials were warned about their alleged abusers or if the church avoided civil and criminal action by not reporting to police or shuffling accused clerics from parish to parish or diocese to diocese.

The archbishop has apologized for his handling of the sex abuse scandal and has acknowledged missteps in how he handled several highly publicized cases, including that of former priest Michael Baker.

Baker told Mahony at a retreat in 1986 that he had molested two young boys but the archbishop has said he didn’t alert anyone because the priest told him the children were illegal immigrants who had returned to Mexico.

That case seriously tarnished Mahony’s reputation and prompted a criminal grand jury probe that never resulted in charges.

When the Los Angeles archdiocese settled its abuse cases in 2007, lead plaintiff attorney Boucher estimated that Baker’s conduct accounted for $40 million of the total.

The former priest was arrested in 2006 as he returned from a vacation in Thailand and ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison for molestation.

Judge bans ‘Choose Life’ license plate in N.C.


Judge bans ‘Choose Life’ license plate in N.C.

By Michael Winter USA Today Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:47 AM

North Carolina cannot issue anti-abortion “Choose Life” license plates without offering drivers plates with other viewpoints, a federal has judged ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge James Fox ruled Friday that the “Choose Life” tag violated the First Amendment, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. In issuing a permanent injunction, he called it “viewpoint discrimination” because the state did not offer a plate supporting reproductive choice.

The Republican-controlled Legislature authorized the plate in June 2011, rejecting six efforts to include additional plates that declared “Respect Choice,” or “Trust Women. Respect Choice.” Gov. Bev Purdue, a Democrat, signed the measure that November.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union then sued on behalf of four auto owners, and Fox issued a temporary injunction blocking the sale of “Choose Life,” a national organization lobbying to get the plate in all 50 states.

The state attorney general has not decided whether he will appeal, the Associated Press reported Monday.

“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” Chris Brook, legal director of the state ACLU, said in a statement. “The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view.”

Brook added, “We would have made the exact same argument if the situation was reversed, and the state planned on issuing a pro-choice plate while not offering one expressing the opposite point of view.”

According to Choose Life, its plate is available in 27 states besides North Carolina. The North Carolina site has not yet been updated to reflect the injunction.

Fox’s ruling points out that “funds to be collected from the ‘Choose Life’ plate are expressly prohibited from ‘be1//ing3// distributed to any agency, organization, business , or other entity that provides, promotes, counsels, or refers to abortion.’”

The Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship would have received $15 of the $25 fee for the special plate.

“North Carolina is the only state in the southeast that refuses to let its citizens purchase the ‘Choose Life’ license plate,” Bobbie Meyer, state director of the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, told LifeNews on Monday. She said the plates have raised more than $12 million for sponsors in the states where they are sold, “thereby helping mothers and their families.”

North Carolina offers almost 150 special tags for a variety of causes, interests, organizations, military veterans or colleges. Among them: the Buddy Pelletier Surfing Foundation, Sons of Confederate Veterans, 27 different NASCAR drivers, animal lovers, duck hunters, God, Masons, Shriners, Lions, shag dancers, square dancers, hikers, bicyclists, police, firefighters, forests, tobacco -- and watermelons.

Bid to move suit vs. polygamists denied


Bid to move suit vs. polygamists denied

Associated Press Thu Dec 13, 2012 10:40 PM

PRESCOTT - A federal judge has denied a request to move a civil-rights lawsuit against two polygamous towns out of Arizona.

U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland said attorneys representing Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, did not make a strong showing of inconvenience. The attorneys had argued that moving the case to Utah would cut down on travel time and expenses for the parties and witnesses.

Holland wrote in an order this week that traveling to Prescott will take more time but that the cost will be insignificant compared with the overall cost of litigating the case.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued the towns earlier this year, alleging that they have supported a campaign of intimidation against former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and denied them services.

The sect has long held sway over the two remote towns along the Arizona-Utah line, although FLDS leader Warren Jeffs is serving time in a Texas prison for various polygamy-related convictions in that state.

Judge Derek Johnson - Rape, it's the Woman's fault???

Rape, it's the Woman's fault???

I wonder if Judge Derek Johnson also blames robbery victims who didn't put up a fight for the crime, rather then the robber???


U.S. judge says victims’ body can prevent rape

Associated Press Fri Dec 14, 2012 12:20 AM

SANTA ANA, California — A Southern California judge is being publicly admonished for saying a rape victim “didn’t put up a fight” during her assault and that if someone doesn’t want sexual intercourse, the body “will not permit that to happen.”

The California Commission on Judicial Performance voted 10-0 to impose a public admonishment Thursday, saying Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson’s comments were inappropriate and a breach of judicial ethics.

“In the commission’s view, the judge’s remarks reflected outdated, biased and insensitive views about sexual assault victims who do not ‘put up a fight.’ Such comments cannot help but diminish public confidence and trust in the impartiality of the judiciary,” wrote Lawrence J. Simi, the commission’s chairman.

Johnson made the comments in the case of a man who threatened to mutilate the face and genitals of his ex-girlfriend with a heated screwdriver, beat her with a metal baton and made other violent threats before committing rape, forced oral copulation, and other crimes.

Though the woman reported the criminal threats the next day, the woman did not report the rape until 17 days later.

Johnson, a former prosecutor in the Orange County district attorney’s sex crimes unit, said during the man’s 2008 sentencing that he had seen violent cases on that unit in which women’s vaginas were “shredded” by rape.

“I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case,” Johnson said.

The commission found that Johnson’s view that a victim must resist to be a real victim of sexual assault was his opinion, not the law. Since 1980, California law doesn’t require rape victims to prove they resisted or were prevented from resisting because of threats.

In an apology to the commission, Johnson said his comments were inappropriate. He said his comments were the result of his frustration during an argument with a prosecutor over the defendant’s sentence.

Johnson said he believed the prosecutor’s request of a 16-year sentence was not authorized by law. Johnson sentenced the rapist to six years instead, saying that’s what the case was “worth.”

Naps cause miracle, not Jesus???


Hoping for a holiday miracle? Just try taking a little nap

by Clay Thompson, columnist - Dec. 14, 2012 12:00 AM

The Republic | azcentral

So, the other day when it was getting a little chilly in the house and the dog started hogging more of the blankets than usual, I turned on the furnace.

Nothing happened.

Being a rational, responsible adult, I decided to ignore this until the next day, and so, I put on my winter jammies and piled some more covers on the bed.

The next day, I ignored it a little bit longer and decided I would call the furnace people in the afternoon after I had been out and about doing some other stuff, so I went out and about and did some other stuff and then I took a nap, meaning to go out and check the circuit breakers afterward and then call the furnace people if that wasn't the problem.

And when I woke up from the nap -- wonder of wonders -- the furnace was running and the indoor temperature was up by 6 degrees and rising.

My first thought was that this was a miracle of Christmas, but then, I remembered it was Wednesday, so we hadn't yet come to the official start of the Christmas season, which would be Thursday, the birthday of my older daughter.

(Her birthday is always the first official day you can put up your Christmas decorations, although I have to say that, driving around town, I have noticed that some of you have ignored this rule. I am a bit disappointed by this because I thought we'd been over this matter before.)

So anyway, instead of thinking of this furnace thing as a Christmas miracle, I have decided to regard it as a taking-a-nap miracle.

Got a problem? Go take a snooze. It will all work out OK.

Alvarez to '60 Minutes': False confessions story was 'offensive'

Anybody that doesn't believe that the police routinely get innocent people to confess to crimes they didn't commit needs to read up on "The 9 Step Reid Method".

"The 9 Step Reid Method" is the technique that most police agencies in the world use to get confessions.

Go ahead right now and Google

9 Step Reid Method
Lots of sites will pop up. Here are some of them:

Back in the old days cops used to get confessions by beating people with rubber hoses. The great thing about rubber hoses is they don't leave marks like beating a person with a club would and the cops can say the person confessed willingly without being beaten.

The "9 Step Reid Method" is just a modern method of beating the sh*t out of suspected criminals with psychological rubber hose. It's a very effective method in getting people to confess. In fact it's so effective that it routinely gets innocent people to confess to crimes they didn't commit.

And the good thing about "The 9 Step Reid Method" is that the psychological rubber hoses used to beat a suspected criminal into confession leave even less marks then real rubber hoses.

The bad thing about "The 9 Step Reid Method" is that the confessions cops get when they use it are about as reliable as those they got when they beat the sh*t out of a person with a rubber hose to get the confession.

As of today, DNA tests have cause 301 people who were framed by the police to be released from death row. Many of those people confess to the crimes the crimes the police framed them for. And of course most of those police confessions were obtained using the "The 9 Step Reid Method".


Alvarez to '60 Minutes': False confessions story was 'offensive'

By Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune reporter

8:05 a.m. CST, December 14, 2012

After days of scathing reviews of her "60 Minutes" interview on false confessions, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez fired off a letter to the venerable news program calling its Sunday report "one-sided and extremely misleading" and vowing to set the record straight.

The segment titled "Chicago: The False Confession Capital" featured two infamous Chicago-area cases in which teenage boys allegedly confessed to brutal murders but were later exonerated when DNA excluded them as the killers.

In her letter, addressed to CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, Alvarez called the story "an offensive display" and accused reporter Byron Pitts of using only snippets of a 6-month-old interview to distort her record and make it appear she was still trying to prosecute the cases.

"Had I known that this story would completely distort my position and intentionally omit critical facts, I would never have agreed to your interview," Alvarez wrote.

One particularly damaging portion of the interview involved the Dixmoor Five case in which five men were convicted as teens of the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl whose body was found on a path. DNA linked a serial rapist to the crime and undermined confessions from the teens. They were cleared in 2011 after spending years in prison.

Alvarez explained in the interview that one possible explanation for the DNA was necrophilia — that the rapist had sex with the girl after she'd already been killed.

That answer — which was roundly mocked in blogs and news critiques — was misconstrued, Alvarez said in the letter. She wrote that the necrophilia theory was used at trial years before she had any involvement in the case.

"I have never advanced that theory or argument, but simply responded, when asked by Mr. Pitts, that we can't say with certainty what had occurred," Alvarez wrote. "This story was not designed to inform, it was designed to undermine me and mislead the public."

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for Alvarez, said the reaction to the piece has been vitriolic. "She's gotten hate mail, things you couldn't even publish," Daly said.

CBS News representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment.


Mesa holds 10th annual Breakfast with Santa event

I suspect some folks will argue that when governments have events with Santa Claus it is mixing religion with government. And of course Santa Claus is only associated with the Christian religion.

If you ask me the Santa Claus superstition is just as silly as the Jesus superstition.


Mesa holds 10th annual Breakfast with Santa event

Posted: Saturday, December 15, 2012 2:16 pm

By Daniel Quigley, Tribune

City of Mesa Parks and Recreation held its annual Breakfast with Santa at the Mesa Convention Center Saturday.

It was the 10th year of the event, which this year fed around 280 people twice, in 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. sessions – both sellouts.

There was breakfast, a raffle, a costumed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and an elf and, of course, pictures with Jolly Ol’ St. Nick – all for only $5 per family member.

Recreation programmer Jacquie Gallo has organized the event for the entire 10 years, since its humble beginning at the Red Mountain Multigenerational Center.

“It’s beautiful. I love this event.” Gallo said. “I love this facility. It’s great.”

Proceeds from the breakfast benefit City of Mesa’s Community Spirit, a charitable fundraising and volunteer organization whose goal is to make Mesa “a better place to live,” according to city news releases leading up to the event.

Funds go toward elementary schools and families in need, Gallo said.

There was also a canned-food collection for a United Food Bank at the event.

District 2 Councilman Alex Finter attended the breakfast with his daughter, son-in-law and three toddler grandsons – Lincoln and twins Maiz and River.

“You know, sometimes we kind of miss out on some of those traditional activities in the community,” Finter said. “This one brings a lot of folks together. “

“With all the tragedies and terrible things that are going on right now,” he said, just a day after the mass killing at an elementary school in Connecticut, “… it’s that glimmer of Christmas spirit that you hope you find in a community.”

District 1 Councilman Dave Richins also attended the 8:30 a.m. breakfast with his three elementary-school-age daughters. He said his 12-year-old son is a little too old for Santa, now.

Richins applauded the community-building and good-cause aspects of the event and also the showcasing of an important city facility in the convention center.

“To me this is what cities do. It’s events like this that get people in city facilities,” he said. “Taxpayers pay for these things, for these facilities, we need to use them and get people in them.”

After a breakfast of pancakes, bacon and oranges and pictures, the children were treated with an arts-and-crafts table to make Christmas decorations. Each child also received a gift bag upon entry that included stickers and crayons.

Efficient service was provided in most part by an all-volunteer regiment of students from Red Mountain High School’s Club Diversity, which participates in a wide range of community service activities.

Both councilmen and Gallo complimented the dedication of the students, who gave up a Saturday morning, following the end of their semester, to donate their time.

The lines moved fast and food was delivered as each party arrived. Different families were seated amongst each other at random, making for a social, jolly and quick experience.

Mesa Convention Center is located at 201 N. Center St.

Cell phone data analysis by the police

If the cops get your cell phone this is what they will do with it

This is an interesting article from the November 2012 issue of Law and Order.

The article is titled

"Cell Phone Analysis: Part 1"
While we certainly don't like crooked cops that doesn't mean they are stupid. And from this article if you happen to be unlucky enough to be arrested with a cell phone and the police find it they will probably steal your phone and get a lot of information off of it they may be used against you in court.

They will also get your contacts information off the phone probably contact those people asking them about you trying to dig up dirt on you.

And of course they can get GPS information off of the phone and from cell phone tower records to monitor where you have been.


Cell Phone Analysis: Part 1

Written by Ed Sanow

"At a crime scene, grab the cell phone."

The Columbus, Ohio Police and the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area offer a one-day course on Cell Phone Analysis across the U.S. Taught by Christine Roberts, the class familiarizes investigators and patrol officers alike with the basics of cell phone technology, the information and data stored on these phones, forensic methods used in retrieval, cell-tower site analysis, and the info available from cellular service providers.

This is all geared to better understanding the use of mobile devices as evidence in criminal trials. The course covers the use of information stored on the handset, SIM cards, expansion cards, prepaid phones, live and historical tracking, cell-based financial crimes, payments and money laundering, cyber stalking and cloud storage.

An incredible amount of evidence is just sitting on smartphones waiting for you to access it. You would never overlook a drop of blood at a crime scene. A cell phone may even be more helpful, and that includes info “deleted” from the phone.

Juries understand cell phones, cell phone towers and cell phone pinging. They also understand cell phones can put the suspect in the proximity of the crime. Or at least the cell phone was at the area – and the suspect testified that he never lets the cell out of his possession. Cell phones and cellular service providers are a vast source of evidence that investigators are just now grasping.

Mobile phones are one of the most important developments in technology in the courtroom in the last five years. When a person types and sends an e-mail or text message, they create a piece of evidence that can be used for or against them. Cell records can be used in court to show exactly where someone was – or was not – and to whom they were talking at a particular time.

Electronic and Retained Evidence

Two types of evidence can be retrieved from a cell phone: 1) electronic evidence and 2) retained data evidence. Electronic evidence includes the user’s call history, contacts / phone book, calendar information, and information stored on the SIM card. Retained data evidence is telecom records involving the detail of calls made and received and the geographical location of the mobile phone when a call took place. Part One will cover electronic evidence. Part Two (November 2012, LAW and ORDER) will cover retained evidence.

Electronic evidence is stored in different places depending on the channel access method of the phone. GSM (global system for mobile communication) is typically used by AT&T and T-Mobile. With this and the iDEN (integrated digital enhanced network) phones, evidence is stored on the handset and the SIM card. CDMA (code division multiple access) is typical of Verizon and Sprint-Nextel. The evidence here is all on the handset. There is no SIM card with CDMA phones. However, this is slowly changing – the new LTE network will require all phones to have a SIM card.

Every handset has a unique identification number. On CDMA phones, an ESN (electronic serial number) or a MEID (mobile equipment identifier) 56-bit serial number is used. On GSM phones, an IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) is used. Both are found under the battery. The point is this: you don’t need to know the phone number for the handset. You can subpoena the MEID/ESN or IMEI to obtain call detail records.

“The SIM card of a phone can contain a lot of valuable evidence. If you see these loose and lying around, grab them,” said Roberts. Then you can subpoena the ICCID number to the network provider and receive the toll records associated with that phone.

Electronic evidence is fragile. It can be altered, damaged or destroyed by improper handling or improper examination. Special precautions should be taken to document, collect, preserve and examine this type of evidence.

The Big Three

The address book, call history and text messages are the Big 3 in your investigation. The address book has contact information that gives insight to the social network of the suspect or victim. It can be used to link a suspect to a victim and to provide a list of people to interview. It can provide a cross-reference between real names and nicknames. And the picture next to the contact number can even put a face to a name.

The call history gives even a deeper insight to the activities of the owner. You can see the last received and sent calls, when they occurred and their duration. The duration is important for indirect conclusions. A wrong number going to voice mail would have a duration of 30 seconds, while a duration of 15 minutes means a real phone conversation.

Text messages are becoming more and more important in both criminal and civil proceedings. Texts are one of the most common forms of electronic evidence. Texts offer concrete and direct information in contrast to the call history and address book that only offer indirect and inferential information. These contain the actual words written by the owner or intended for the owner. That is good news for evidence in court.

Text Is Perishable

The bad news is that text messages are perishable. Cell phone companies no longer store or extract text messages. Verizon does not keep text messages on their servers for very long, between three and seven days. AT&T stores the text message for 48 hours to be sure it is delivered, and then deletes them.

The best chance to get any text message information is by searching the handset. If the telecom company keeps text messages, then an option is to fax a letterhead “preservation” request to the cell service provider. If this is done in time, the cell phone company will hold the data for a police agency for up to 90 days, allowing the investigator time to get a court or search warrant for records.

If the text messages have been deleted from the handset, a cell phone forensic specialist must become involved. Even still, “try” and “maybe” are what you are likely to hear. However, these forensic specialists pride themselves on doing the difficult and complicated. The lesson is the text is not “deleted” until the cell forensics folks with all their expensive retrieval hardware and software say it is deleted.

Unlike text messages, voice mail is stored at the service provider for at least 30 days. Voice mail can be more damaging evidence than text messages. Texts don’t indicate tone of voice or sincerity. Voice mail reveals much more of a person’s intentions, especially in stalking or intimidation cases. Some of today’s smartphones store voicemail on the handset so don’t think that all voicemail is deleted.

Voicemail is easy to copy. Audacity.com offers free software. CellTap™ from JK Audio allows audio recording, including live recording, from any cell phone, not just smartphones. On the other hand, voice mail can also be deleted remotely.

Photos on SD Cards

People are proud of their crimes. They take cell phone pictures of the crimes as trophies, and sometimes cell phone videos of the crime in process. Data on the phone can be used to determine the exact date and time an image was taken, and possibly even a location.

Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification to photos and videos. Geotags are automatically embedded in photos taken with smartphones. When these photos are uploaded to the Internet, they remain tagged with location data. Got a photo of a marijuana grow operation? Got a photo of a kidnap victim? The image probably contains the geotag with the latitude and longitude. “We often overlook this,” Roberts said.

One place to look for images is the expansion memory (SD) cards. The iPhone does not use an SD card. It uses its hard drive instead. All other phones use an SD card. A 32-GB SD card can hold 12,320 (fine mode) photos. In a child porn case, one forensic specialist retrieved 4,500 images that had been “deleted.” One forensic specialist retrieved 5,800 text messages that had been “deleted.”

Just to keep the two straight, an SD expansion or memory card is very different from a SIM card. The SD card holds photos and videos. The SIM (subscriber identity module) card is the brains of the phone and stores the phone number subscribed to the phone.

Grab all the SD cards you can. Getting deleted images from these cards is relatively easy unless the information has been over-written. Consider asking cooperative witnesses (who have taken images of the crime or suspects) for their SD card – if you can verify that the evidence is stored on the SD card. You don’t need their phone (if it has an SD card) and they won’t want to give it up for the duration of a criminal investigation. Just ask for the SD card.

SIM Cards

SIM cards may hold incredible amounts of evidence. And the information on the SIM card may be very different from what is on the handset. The trained cell forensic specialist will want to process the cell phone (handset) separately from the SIM card in that phone. Deleted text messages on the SIM card can be retrieved as long as a new message has not over-written the old message. SIM card readers like Paraben are pretty common.

The investigator may find loose SIM cards lying around on desks or in wallets. Grab them. As a rule, AT&T and T-Mobile phones use SIM cards. Even the iPhone uses a SIM card if it is on AT&T. (Recall the iPhone does not use an SD card).

The phone book on the SIM card and the handset may have different phone book contact numbers. The SIM card typically holds between one and 10 numbers last dialed. The cell phone’s internal memory may hold many more than that.

If the Phone Is OFF

The rule: If the cell phone is OFF, leave it OFF until the SIM card and SD card are processed by a cell forensic specialist.

The location area identifier shows where the mobile phone is currently located. This value is retained by the SIM card when the phone is turned OFF. However, the location updates on the SIM card when the phone is turned back ON.

You found the cell phone of an abducted child. What if that phone was turned OFF at the location the child is being held or the body was disposed? The location area identifier will tell you where the phone was when it was shut OFF. Turning the phone ON destroys that information!

Just turning the phone ON runs the risk of changing other data on the phone. For example, you turn the phone ON and two bad things can happen. First, new information may be added through an incoming call or text message. This may cause over-writing of existing calls, voice mails or text messages. A new text comes in and bumps off the oldest 20th text (max of 20 SMS) and that 20th text had valuable intel.

Second, turning the phone ON allows the increasingly common kill/wipe signal to be received. Just like the voice mail can be remote deleted, the hard drive can be remote wiped. Most cell phone companies offer a lost phone tool on smartphones. If you lose your phone, you can log onto the website and send a command to erase all the information stored on the phone, phone book, recent calls, and text messages.

If the Phone Is ON

If the phone is ON, the very first step is to find a way to get the phone off the network. There are several options. One of the easier options is to put the cell phone in airplane mode (Stand Alone, Radio Off, Standby or Phone Off Mode). This is not considered a “search” because it is done to “preserve evidence.”

If the phone is on, leave it on. Why safeguard the phone in the “ON” position? Why not just turn it OFF or pull the battery? This can cause the phone to activate a handset lock code that your forensic expert may not be able to bypass. A forensic expert can defeat a lot of handset passcodes on a small percentage of today’s phones. Always ask for the passcode from the suspect whom you are taking the phone; you will be surprised how many suspects give up there passcode when asked. Make sure to write this passcode down for the forensic expert.

Pre-Paid Phones

Everything that can be done on a regular contract cell phone can be done on a pre-paid cell phone. Numerous Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) sell mobile services with few restrictions. Nextel has Boost; Sprint has Virgin, Disney and Helio; Verizon has Tracfone and Amp’d Mobile; AT&T has GoPhone; and T-Mobile has T-Mobile.

The advantage of a pre-paid phone for criminal activity is obvious: anonymity. Plans and phones are paid for with cash. There is no contract to tie the identity of the person to the device or service agreement. They are essentially disposable.

However, there is still valuable data on the Verizon, Nextel, T-Mobile and AT&T supported cell phones. It is on the handset and SIM card! This includes the last numbers dialed, call logs, call durations, pictures and text messages. (Text messages may contain names or nicknames.)

It gets better. Did the subject buy a ringtone, game, music or app on the Internet for the pre-paid phone? You might now have a credit card number. Same for purchasing additional minutes. They may have used an e-mail address registering online for a receipt or a notification.

By mapping Call Data Records (patterns of communication) to known acquaintances and performing a Cell Site Analysis, it may be possible to either prove or disprove ownership of the pre-paid phone.

Damaged Phones

Don’t let a damaged phone, even a badly damaged one, stop you from obtaining evidence. The majority of all damaged cell phones can be repaired and processed. That includes the ever-common water damage. (One investigator had been able to recover some evidence from a phone that had been under water for two years). About 90 percent of water damage that most of us cause is just to the battery and connections. In fact, part of formal cell phone forensics training is cell phone repair. The iPhone, for example, has 42 screws and snap-in parts. Take the cell phone to the forensic expert and see if repairs can be made.

Formal training is necessary to become a cell phone forensic specialist. This training may be covered by grants, such as the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant. Specialized hardware and/or software will be required. Software-based solutions include Paraben and Secure View. Hardware-based solutions are available from Cellebrite. Cellebrite is easy, portable and car-adaptable. The unit is a bit expensive, compared to the software-only solutions, including both an initial outlay and a yearly subscriber fee.

Grant money is available for cell-phone investigative training based in Ohio and California. This training is the one-day initial overview training up to a 40-hour advanced investigative training, and the formal cell-phone forensic training involving forensic and diagnostic hardware and software to process the handset and SIM cards.

Published in Law and Order, Nov 2012

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